Ian Pulver joined Hockey Central at Noon to discuss his client’s situation, from being dissatisfied with his role in Nashville, to wanting to play on a contender, to his eventual trade to the Leafs.
How ticked were you about the trade?
It was quite a surprise to say the least. Having said that, we have been in dialogue with the Predators in the last short while about Olli’s situation, but really it all dates back to when he signed there this past July. Olli chose to go to Nashville, there were other suitors to participate and play for, and they were a team he felt was a contending team. He was looking forward to being a part of that and things didn’t go as planned.
Was a verbal promise made?
There was certain promise made that he would play center there and play with the better players there going into the season. That didn’t happen. He barely played center. Through the exhibition season and first part of the season, he played third line checking wing.
The three goals and three assists he amassed – was it mainly due to the fact that he didn’t get any offensive opportunities? Was he not any good, or was it about positioning or opportunity?
It was a combination of everything. He was signed, and then they went out and signed Derek Roy and Mike Riberio after they told him he was going to play a major role there. He was the one guy who they felt could transition into playing the wing. He was put in a checking role, which Olli Jokinen embraced and took up the challenge and executed it pretty well. With him in the lineup in Nashville, I believe they only lost 10 games. He did what he was told and did it in the Olli Jokinen kind of way, and that was to perfection.
What was your opinion on how the Predators handled it?
They were above the board to the degree that they told him all along eventually how they wanted him to play, and he executed and did it quite well. Olli was excited to be a Predator and play on a top team. How it unfolded, in terms of him not being allowed to play a position he’s played over 1200 games in the NHL at, I can’t say we were too happy about it.
In a 1,200 game NHL career, Jokinen has only played six playoff games. How does that happen?
That’s a good question, especially if you know him and the type of pro he is. He is a throwback, there aren’t a lot like him. It is a bizarre stat, but Olli’s had international success and takes care of himself. He led the Finnish team to the silver in the Olympics, or the bronze, so I can’t account for that except he’s been in scenarios where teams have fell short of the playoffs a number of times. That’s why this whole thing is quite bizarre, going to Nashville and being cast in a checking role in Nashville.
I can’t say he was happy to be traded out of there, but at the same time he did everything they wanted and it still wasn’t good enough. He’s a pretty proud guy, a respectful guy, and will take up the next challenge.
Promises were made and promises weren’t kept. Is there anything you can do as an agent to protect your player or are you at the mercy of believing what the team says?
You see this happen in junior hockey, minor hockey, it happens all over the place. Especially against the backdrop of a salary cap, this is a ruthless business and this is one of the reasons players should be paid and compensated accordingly. Once you cast your lot, you are at the mercy of a coach who can say, “We think you can score 30 goals for us, and play the powerplay,” but the next players have come in and the coach may think those players are better. That’s just the way it is. It goes with the territory and the landscape.
Have you demanded a trade from Toronto?
Have you had the discussion about Olli’s future with the Leafs leading up to the deadline?
Dave was forthright to us and said, when they acquired him, that we will see how this plays out and transpires. Olli may be the exact recipe they need in the locker room. He’s a pro, takes care of himself, and he’s a leader. Whether they trade him or not, Olli will take up a new challenge and will bring everything he has to the table and see where it takes him. That’s how he’s played his entire career, with class and dignity, and he hopes to get that in return. Sometimes he hasn’t.
Toronto were forced to take him for money reasons. He was brought in with the idea of moving him on, which should be positive for Olli?
He would welcome the playoffs, but at the same time, he is not going to check out on a group of players or a team before he gets there. His mindset is that being in the NHL is a privilege and he’s going to give it all he has for the team he’s wearing the jersey for.
The fuel in this trade is that he went from the #1-ranked Predators to a team out of it, with the insinuation promises were made. Were you more upset in the coaching staff or management for not being able to rectify it?
I would say all around. It was a story that I haven’t quite come across in my 10 years as an agent. David Poile was forthright to the degree that he could be, but at the same time Olli Jokinen signed up to be a center, he had 43 points in Winnipeg last year and was looking forward to continuing on at that pace or greater in Nashville. There was dialogue, but at the same time things happened. Hey, look, Olli said it the best; the team had lost 10 or 12 games this year, he was happy to play any role on the top team in the NHL. He embraced playing third line checking winger on his off wing.
Would you do business with Nashville again?
In this league you have to deal and do business with all the teams, so you’ve got to forge ahead.