As opposed to… clam-happy! Hit it, drag queen Tammie Brown!
The waiver wire is normally the home to fourth liners, career AHLers, and overpriced veterans past their prime, but two players were placed on waivers on Tuesday that are far more useful: Jussi Jokinen and Kaspars Daugavins. Considering the Canucks current injury woes at forward that have necessitated using defenceman Keith Ballard at left wing, Mike Gillis should certainly consider claiming both players.
As is usually the issue with useful players on waivers, it’s likely that one or both will be claimed well before they reach the Canucks. Still, if Gillis has the opportunity, both players would be an immediate fit in the Canucks’ lineup.
Jussi Jokinen is the more talented of the two and would immediately help fix the Canucks’ lack of depth up the middle. Since Jokinen can play at both centre and on the wing, he could fill in as the Canucks’ third line centre until Ryan Kesler returns, at which point he could shift to the wing on either the second or third line.
The Canucks have uncharacteristically struggled in the faceoff circle this season and are currently 28th in the league in faceoff percentage. That will happen when you have your top two faceoff men on Injured Reserve. I bring this up because Jokinen, despite playing most of his career on the wing, is actually a faceoff specialist. He has won 58.2% of his faceoffs this season and was 55.1% last season. Many of these faceoffs have come on the penalty kill, where he averages 1:25 per game.
More importantly, Jokinen is a positive possession player. He’s currently fourth on the Hurricanes in Corsi, indicating that the Hurricanes consistently outshoot their opposition while Jokinen is on the ice. He’s done this while facing reasonably tough competition and starting his shifts equally in the offensive and defensive zones, so his possession rates aren’t the result of sheltered deployment.
Jokinen also has a sizeable helping of offensive skill, scoring 30 goals and 65 points in 2009-10 and tallying 52 and 46 points in the two seasons since. He’s also known as a shootout specialist: he’s 30-for-66 for his career and is tied for third among active skaters in shootout goals.
A third-line centre who can win faceoffs, kill penalties, contribute offensively, and score in the shootout to boot? That sounds like the type of player the Canucks could use. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that other teams higher on the waiver priority list could use him too and have noticed these same qualities. The Phoenix Coyotes, for instance, have a good track record with picking up undervalued players and getting good performances out of them.
So if he’s so useful, why is he on waivers in the first place? There are a couple reasons. First is his contract: Jokinen has a $3 million cap hit through 2014, which isn’t too terrible considering he signed it after scoring 65 and 52 points in his previous two seasons, but the Hurricanes just committed a lot of money to Alexander Semin and likely want to shed some contracts.
That brings me to the second reason: Jokinen isn’t scoring. He has just 10 points this season. Part of that comes down to opportunity, as the Hurricanes brought in Semin and Jordan Staal prior to this season. Jokinen was second on the Hurricanes in scoring last season but Semin, Staal, and a healthy Jeff Skinner have eaten into his ice time.
His on-ice shooting percentage, however, is also the lowest it’s been in six seasons at just 5.32%. That’s well below league average and he’s a likely candidate to see his luck turn around. Now is the time to buy low, essentially.
The only issue for the Canucks, other than the fact that he will get claimed by another team before he reaches them, is that he carries that $3 million cap hit through next season when the salary cap is coming down. With a compliance buyout of one of Keith Ballard or David Booth (and I don’t see Booth getting bought out) and a Roberto Luongo trade, however, that is less of an issue. If they do claim Jokinen, however, it will likely mean losing one of Mason Raymond or Chris Higgins to free agency unless they take a sizeable hometown discount.
In any case, the salary cap shouldn’t be a reason not to claim Jokinen.
Kaspars Daugavins is a simpler case. He’s your basic bottom-six, gritty forward with a small helping of skill. He’s proven he can score at the AHL level and has been a positive possession forward for the Ottawa Senators this season while playing largely a checking line role. His name is also the answer to “How do you pluralize Kaspar Daugavins?”
Most people would be aware of him for his goofy, skills-competition-style, spinorama shootout attempt against the Boston Bruins, but that shouldn’t define him as a player. Daugavins is second among Senators forwards in short-handed ice time per game and plays left wing, where the Canucks have been playing Keith Ballard. While Ballard has been a revelation at forward, it’s still not ideal to have to play him there and the Canucks could use more depth on the left wing heading into the playoffs.
Daugavins is a strong skater, can play with some grit, and moves the puck in the right direction. He’d be a good fit for the Canucks on the third line for now and can move down to the fourth once other skaters get healthy. He’s also on a cheap contract at $635,000 and will be an RFA next season.
So again, why is he on waivers? Likely because Ottawa goaltenders can’t make a save while he’s on the ice. When he’s on the ice, the Senators’ save percentage is just .874 at even-strength, giving him a plus/minus rating of minus-7 and an unsustainably low PDO of 915. This is another case of buying low, with much less risk due to his low cap hit. Unfortunately, other teams are likely interested in buying low on a useful bottom-six winger, so the Canucks will likely never see him.