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Who Should Be The Priority, Jussi Jokinen or Erik Cole?

Carolina Hurricanes forwards Erik Cole and Jussi Jokinen are both unrestricted free agents this summer. (photo by LTD)

After the season was over, Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford declared that re-signing UFA forward Erik Cole would be the priority of the team this offseason. While discussing other players, Rutherford said that Jussi Jokinen, a player who scored the exact same number of points as Cole did this past season, would probably hit the open market and the team might not be able to bring him back.

Some fans took this as posturing because the GM is known to deliver messages through the media at times. But why would he posture with Jokinen and not with Cole? Jokinen was a relatively easy sign two years ago and Cole, (as well as his agent), have traditionally been tough negotiators. Why not posture with both players?

Whether the club intends to bring both players back or not, it's interesting that Rutherford made a public commitment to one and not to the other. Is the Finn asking for that much more money than the Oswego native or does management consider Cole to be more important to the team?

Both players contribute in different ways, even if their point totals are similar. Let's compare their stats over the last couple of years.

Erik Cole

#26 / Left Wing / Carolina Hurricanes



Nov 06, 1978

2010-11 - Erik Cole 82 26 26 52 -1 49 3 1 9 201 12.9
2009-10 - Erik Cole 40 11 5 16 -9 29 2 0 1 81 13.6
2008-09 - Erik Cole 80 18 24 42 0 73 5 0 1 178 10.1
- 3 Year Total 202 55 55 110 -10 151 10 1 11 470 11.7

Jussi Jokinen

#36 / Left Wing / Carolina Hurricanes



Apr 01, 1983

2010-11 - Jussi Jokinen 70 19 33 52 3 24 8 0 1 136 14.0
2009-10 - Jussi Jokinen 81 30 35 65 3 36 10 0 6 160 18.8
2008-09 - Jussi Jokinen 71 7 20 27 -10 28 2 0 1 101 6.9
- 3 Year Total 222 56 88 144 -4 88 20 0 8 397 14.1

Over the past three years, Jokinen has played in more games, primarily due to Cole's injuries two seasons ago. The Finn has just one more goal scored, but has 33 more assists. Also, Jokinen provides more offense on the powerplay and has scored double the powerplay goals.

But Cole has the bigger body and knows how to use it. Last season he had 225 hits to Jokinen's 45. He creates offense at even strength with his speed and brute force but does not always earn the assists for his efforts.

Jokinen was the team's best faceoff man last year, (52.8% in 320 attempts) and he's one of the league's best at the shootout.

Cole seems to bring out Eric Staal's best game, but Jokinen is flexible and can be plugged into almost any offensive position. Both players are popular in the dressing room, with the fans, and are good with the media. Both contribute their time and money to local charities.

Obviously, both players bring a lot to the table. Is one more valuable than the other?

We do not know the particulars of the contract negotiations, although both players are most likely looking for multiple year contracts and the dollar figure of $4 million has been thrown out there.

For argument sake, let's say that both players would agree to the same contract terms, a two year deal which would pay $3.5 million in year one and $4 million in year two. But due to budget concerns, the Hurricanes can only afford to pay one of them that contract.

Who do you sign? Who would be more valuable to the team over the next two years? In your opinion, who should be the priority and why?