The Coyotes gave their lineup a major boost of offense on Friday, acquiring 30-goal scorer Olli Jokinen from the Florida Panthers for defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton and the 49th pick in this year's draft.
Jokinen, a 29-year-old center, has tallied at least 30 goals four times in his career and last season led the Panthers with 34 goals and 37 assists in 82 games. His best season came in 2006-07, when he finished with 39 goals and 91 points.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder was an All-Star in 2003 and is one of the league's most durable players. Since joining Florida prior to the 2000-01 season, Jokinen has missed just seven games and has appeared in every game in each of the past four seasons.
"We needed a No. 1, big, tough centerman to go every night against guys like (Ryan) Getzlaf, Joe Thornton, Mike Modano," coach and managing partner Wayne Gretzky said. "We feel we gave up very good hockey players in Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard, but we got a tremendous asset back in Jokinen and we really feel like we made our team a better team."
Jokinen has appeared in 567 career games with Florida and is the franchise's all-time leader in goals (188), assists (231), points (419), game-winning goals (36) and shots (1,841). After seven seasons in south Florida with no playoff appearances, though, Jokinen knew his days with the Panthers were numbered.
"I wasn't surprised I got traded," said Jokinen, who added he was hoping for a fresh start. "I was basically preparing for this the past couple months. I knew it would happen on draft day. ... I was a little surprised I ended up going to Phoenix, but it was a happy surprise. I'm really, really excited to play under Gretzky."
A native of Kuopio, Finland, Jokinen represented his country in the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics. He was the Panthers captain the past four seasons.
Jokinen was drafted No. 3 overall by Los Angeles in 1997. After playing one-plus seasons with the Kings, Jokinen was dealt to the New York Islanders, where he spent one season before being traded again. He has played in 723 NHL games but has never been to the postseason, the second-longest streak in league history behind former center Guy Charron (734).
The Coyotes haven't been to the playoffs since 2002, but general manager Don Maloney believes this pairing will end both droughts.
"To get that big, big centerman was invaluable to us," he said. "It takes so much of the heat off a Kyle Turris or Marty Hanzal or whoever plays behind him. We're really, really happy things unfolded the way they did."
"Hopefully, I'll be the missing piece in Phoenix and we can take the next step," said Jokinen, who has two years left on his contract and will earn $5.25 million this season and $5.5 million in 2009-10.
"It's going to be a lot of fun to play on the same team with Eddie (Jovanovski) and Shane Doan. There's a lot of good talent over there."
Ballard, 25, recorded six goals and 21 points in 82 games last season. He was considered the Coyotes' best young defenseman. In three years in Phoenix, Ballard collected 19 goals and 87 points in 233 games.
Boynton, 29, had three goals and 12 points in 79 games last season. Acquired from Boston in 2006 for defenseman Paul Mara, Boynton scored five goals and 23 points in two seasons.