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Versatile Jokinen hopes to remain with Penguins

| Thursday, March 13, 2014, 10:15 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Jussi Jokinen plays against the Capitals on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

Jussi Jokinen sat in his locker at Southpointe on Wednesday, took in his surroundings and offered a smile.

The well-traveled veteran believes he has a found a home.

Maybe even a permanent one.

Jokinen is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and while he doesn't know what the future holds, he made it clear he hopes to remain in Pittsburgh.

“You know, I really do like it here,” Jokinen said. “I like everything about this place.”

The Penguins like Jokinen, too.

General manager Ray Shero isn't discussing the free agency situation for this summer, but the front office and coaching staff have been pleased with the Jokinen's contributions.

A versatile forward, Jokinen has fit on the second line with center Evgeni Malkin and right wing James Neal. He also has bolstered the third line in cameo appearances on center Brandon Sutter's unit.

Wherever Jokinen plays, he seems to thrive.

“He's just such a good player,” Sutter said. “He does everything well.”

Jokinen has played for three other teams during his NHL career, and has participated in the 2006 and 2014 Olympics for Finland.

In a relatively weak free agent class this summer, Jokinen could be in demand. He can play all three forward positions, historically ranks among the league's better faceoff and shootout performers and is strong defensively.

Jokinen, 30, has proven to be a mentor for 19-year-old Olli Maatta, who's also from Finland.

Jokinen knows discussions with the Penguins don't figure to begin until after their playoff run concludes. And he's OK with that.

“I just figure that it will take care of itself in the summer,” Jokinen said. “I don't mind if we don't talk until the summer, either. I really don't care. There are a few free agents on this team, so I know they'll be busy making decisions.

“There is a lot they have to handle. So I totally understand that. But I do want to stay here.”

He also understands that being in his current position is a good thing.

Jokinen has landed a spot on a line with two of the NHL's best players, and he's enjoying every minute.

“Obviously, any winger around the league would like to be in the spot that I'm in right now,” he said. “Geno and Nealer are great players. I like it, playing with them. Anybody would like it.”

The city has rubbed off on Jokinen, too.

Besides enjoying his linemates, Jokinen said he has quickly grown an appreciation for playing in hockey-mad Pittsburgh. His three previous teams — Carolina, Dallas and Tampa Bay — were not hockey hotbeds.

“I'm just enjoying my time so much right now,” he said. “It's a first-class organization. They try to win every year, and as player, you want to be a part of that. And then there's the city. It's just a great place. I'm having a lot of fun right now. ”

Jokinen is in the final year of a deal that pays him $3 million per season. Carolina is picking up $900,000 of that annual salary.

The Penguins won't get such financial aid this summer. But Jokinen hopes a deal can be struck.

“This is where I want to be,” he said.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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