Hurricanes hand Jussi Jokinen a three-year, $9M extension

Remember when people thought Jussi Jokinen served no purpose beyond being a wildly efficient shootout scorer?

The Finnish winger shed that label over the years as he moved from the (once?) rigid structure of the Dallas Stars system to a more wide-open style with the Carolina Hurricanes. He found his way to Carolina after a brief run with the Tampa Bay Lightning, truly cementing his place with the Canes thanks to a hot 2008-09 playoff run (11 points in 18 games).

Jokinen has been a solid offensive contributor in his two full seasons with Carolina, scoring a career-high 65 points in 2009-10 and following it up with a solid 52 points in 10-11. The Hurricanes rewarded his deft work by signing him to a three-year, $9 million contract extension today.

This constitutes another bit of housekeeping for the Hurricanes. They re-signed hard working forward Chad LaRose to a two-year deal on Wednesday and locked up their top defenseman Joni Pitkanen on Tuesday. Their biggest free agent question revolves around the status of power forward Erik Cole, who might be primed for free agency once noon comes around on Friday.

Hurricanes GM Jeremy Rutheford can breathe a bit easier now that he has most – but not all – of his free agent forwards under wraps. The team has 16 players under contract at about $41 million, giving them about $23.2 million in cap space to fill 4-7 roster spots.

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