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Almost exactly one year ago (Feb. 29, 2016, to be exact, a day that does not exist this year) the Calgary Flames finally traded Kris Russell. The unexpectedly controversial defenceman (seriously, the poor guy has inadvertently started more Twitter wars than can be counted merely by existing) had played his final game as a Flame, and was off to Dallas to help them with their playoff push.
In return, the Flames got Jyrki Jokipakka, Brett Pollock, and a second round pick. That pick turned into Dillon Dube, who we kinda like. Pollock, meanwhile, is just over half a point-per-game in the ECHL.
And Jokipakka? Well, he just got placed on waivers.
This could be a precursor to something – or it could be nothing more than a sign nobody wants Jokipakka, including the Flames at this point.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Flames have pushed out their most underperforming defencemen in Jokipakka and Dennis Wideman by acquiring Matt Bartkowski as a sudden free agent pickup (and signing him to an expansion draft-friendly deal) and trading a couple of mid-round picks for Michael Stone. Since then, they’ve been carrying eight defencemen.
When the Flames acquired Jokipakka from Dallas, he was an over-50% CF player. That number dropped to 49.18%, but in all fairness, the Flames were a pretty bad possession team in 2015-16 and a drop was foreseeable. Jokipakka was a negative relative player with the Stars, though, and that continued: he finished the year as a -2.86% guy.
It only got worse this season Jokipakka has been a 45.77% CF player at 5v5. The only regular Flame who has been worse? Garnet Hathaway. (Bartkowski, over five games so far, has been a 46.28% guy.) Jokipakka perhaps would have been able to put up better numbers if he was given the luxuries Wideman was – namely, getting to play alongside T.J. Brodie – but it’s not as though he was thrown to the wolves, either. He was asked to play a steady bottom pairing role and he couldn’t do it.
Jokipakka just plummeted right off the cliff this season. And averaging just 14:26 a game – the lowest in his career – and carrying an expiring cap hit of just $900,000, he’s the most expendable defenceman the Flames have.
And it’s not like he’s going to be doing anything else for the Flames. They don’t have to re-sign him to be the obligatory defenceman left available for Vegas; Bartkowski fills that role now, and he’s much cheaper on the cap (of that note, if the Flames were to demote Jokipakka, they would save the rest of his contract in cap space – though at this point of the season it’s not much, every little bit counts for a team as close to the ceiling as Calgary is).
So Jokipakka’s time with the Flames appears to be over – and it’s possible this could be it for his time in the NHL, too. We’ll see if someone takes a flier on him, but it doesn’t appear as though anyone was willing to actually give anything up for Jokipakka’s services.