Official Reaction: Jokinen/Prust for Higgins/Kotalik

Well, I've been missing for a while around here with just a busy and unfair schedule, but at the moment I'm the one sitting around soaking in all these trade-winds with nothing to do; so I get the first jab at writing a reaction to this trade. Now if you've read me before on the site you know that I'm not the biggest Sather fan, but somehow he has once again convinced a fellow GM to take overpaid players who are underachieving in return for low-risk high-reward assets. Glen, you never cease to amaze me.

One of my favorite sites is The Score and their NHL Watch section is a must especially for fantasy. One of their hockey blogs, Hockey or Die by Jonathan Willis, is easily my number 2 checked site behind the home base here. Today he took an in-depth look a Jokinen to see what has been going on with his play since the trade to Calgary awhile back. Some of the highlights:

"There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that the Southeast division inflates player statistics, and when I looked into it last month I found that the best players in the division all saw their offence drop off substantially outside of it.  Of course, there's also my post this morning, showing that on average, last year Southeast Division players managed about 14.0% less offence when playing outside of their own division."

Mr. Willis has done some great research into the Southeastern division recently using some advanced statistics around the NHL. He even explained why Jay Boumeester has been having a "down" year after hopping to Calgary from Florida. The point is that since leaving Florida where Jokinen hovered around the one point per-game average, his overall scoring has dropped to around an average of .75 per game. Not an alarming drop, but enough to raise interest for a guy who gets paid $ 5.5 Million to score goals.

"We see a sharp decrease after Jokinen left the Southeast Division, but he's still averaging in the neighborhood of three shots per game. The sharp decrease is his shooting percentage, which has dropped from better than 10.0% to less than 7.0%. To put that drop in perspective, if Jokinen were averaging the same shooting percentage that he had last season, he'd already have 20 goals.

Any number of factors could be impacting Jokinen's shooting percentage, but it's unlikely to be a permanent decline; many players see their shooting percentage dip or spike for unknown reasons, but in the vast majority of cases they return to their career levels. For that reason, I'd say that Jokinen is a very good bet to return to the 25-30 goal range wherever he plays next season."

A well-argued explanation. Willis puts my short-term thoughts on the trade better than I could have explained it:

"I think the Rangers got him for a lot less than his full value, and assuming he doesn't suddenly break out another team might be able to pick him up at a discount this summer when he hits free agency."

As much as most think the Rangers won this deal outright, I'm a little on the fence. Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik are still good players who can produce for an NHL team, but for some reason could not find their footing in New York. God bless Darryl Sutter, who I only wish the best with Higgins and Kotalik because I can't really see Jokinen producing worse than those two had been. Meanwhile, Brandon Prust is an energy player who will add some needed toughness to the lineup, but in the end will not solve some of our goal-scoring needs. I'd rather see him in the lineup than Brashear, though. Finally, Jokinen is a good short-term fix. No one knows right now the odds of him re-signing with the Rangers, but the knee-jerk reaction will be that he probably will walk. If I had my way I would put Jokinen as the second-line center and hope he can find some chemistry with a pair of wingers (I would like to see him with Avery). He is more of a natural goal-scorer than a playmaker, and I think putting him with Gaborik would in the end be a mistake (both like to shoot a lot - Jokinen's corsi rating will be tops with the Rangers if he starts producing a little more)

The part of this deal that angers me is the typical Glen Sather focus on the here and now. Granted, Jokinen should provide a scoring boost that was lacking with Kotalik (can't score from the press box) and Higgins that should in turn help us make the playoffs. But, how many Ranger fans want another first or second round exit? At some point, commitments need to be made to the three to five year future where the Rangers can become Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup Contenders. Personally, I would rather have seen Sather trade those two players for a first or a second rounder, but I guess that's why I'm a fan ranting on a laptop and not taking calls in an office at Madison Square Garden.

In the end, this is a deal that has brought some good light onto the season and frees up cap space. I do not think Sather is done, and neither are the Calgary Flames (tons of Kovalchuk rumors today). Either way, I'll be glued to the TV tonight as usual when the Rangers visit the Kings watching our new boys closely.

Small Note: Jokinen will be #12 while Prust will be wearing #8 according to the roster on the Rangers site.