The Rangers’ trade for Olli Jokinen is now official, after the Flames inexplicably allowed Jokinen to skate last night against Philadelphia. (Calgary lost, but Jokinen emerged in one piece, so we suppose that worked out.) With that, Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgings ended their brief, forgettable stints in New York and are shipped off in one of the safer trades Glen Sather will ever make.
Sather doesn’t part with anything of particular value — Higgins had become best known for all the golden chances he couldn’t convert, and Kotalik spent many nights keeping Petr Prucha’s old seat in the press box warm. In return, he gets a potential first-line center in Jokinen, who at worst centers a now-improved second line if he can’t click with Marian Gaborik. (This is entirely possible, by the way: Jokinen’s more of a scorer than a playmaker and has been a disappointment in Calgary, and finding someone to mesh with Gaborik has proven difficult.)
If Jokinen’s a bust, he’s a free agent after the season. (Higgins is an unrestricted free agent, too; tough guy Brandon Prust — who will join Jokinen in New York — is a restricted free agent this summer.) Only Kotalik is under contract beyond this year (he’s signed through 2011–12), so getting rid of his contract, if nothing else, frees up future cap space — and gets rid of a regrettable Sather acquisition. (Only three more to go!) The trade makes the Rangers better in the short term (if not enough to make a dramatic difference), while risking little in the long term. We’re surprised ourselves.