As we push closer toward the NHL's offseason, one man who will need a new contract to remain an Islander is Jesse Joensuu, who -- at least a couple of seasons ago -- was frank about his three-year entry level contract being the window on whether or not he'll make it in North America.
After another up-and-down year on the Bridgeport shuttle -- though one that saw another career high in NHL goals and games -- one might conclude the Joensuu experiment will not bear further fruit.
One counterargument is Joensuu has never been a big scorer, so you're not developing a sniping power forward but rather a big body who can bang a little and give you some offensive punch from the bottom six. On a smallish team his size could yet prove an asset. Another argument, which David Hanssen made here in January, is that the Finn Named Jesse is only 23. At a similar age Frans Nielsen was nowhere near what he is now. At that age Tomas Holmstrom was just a rookie shuttling between Detroit and Adirondack and managing just 11 goals over 104 NHL games in his first two seasons.
Joensuu is neither a future Nielsen nor a future Holmstrom, but as David wrote back in January: "At 23, Jesse Joensuu is not yet what he will develop into." The question: Is what he will develop into something you want to keep?
For me it's simple: If Joensuu will accept another two-way contract to continue his development in these shores, I'd qualify him in a heartbeat. He's not the problem at AHL Bridgeport, and each year he's gotten better and earned more NHL appearances. If organizational depth keeps him from ever becoming an NHL regular, that's a credit to the Islanders. But just because he didn't attain full-time NHL duty by the end of his first contract doesn't mean he can't help the Sound Tigers and, possibly, help the Isles too.
Joensuu is a restricted free agent, coming off a $635,000 salary at the NHL level ($62,500 at the AHL level). With bonuses the cap hit on was ELC was $850,000 but that doesn't really factor in here. A simple qualifying offer of a 10% raise retains his rights.
Contract info from CapGeek
Joensuu Stats and Linemates
|NHL NYI - Jesse Joensuu||42||6||3||9||-6||33||0||11:26||0:07||59||41||14.6|
|AHL BPT - Jesse Joensuu||35||8||16||24||-3||31||0||n/a||n/a||n/a||77||10.4|
|20.01%||EV||12 BAILEY,JOSH - 57 COMEAU,BLAKE - 58 JOENSUU,JESSE|
|15.8%||EV||58 JOENSUU,JESSE - 28 KONOPKA,ZENON - 17 MARTIN,MATT|
|12%||EV||40 GRABNER,MICHAEL - 58 JOENSUU,JESSE - 51 NIELSEN,FRANS|
|5.48%||EV||57 COMEAU,BLAKE - 58 JOENSUU,JESSE - 17 MARTIN,MATT|
|4.44%||EV||57 COMEAU,BLAKE - 58 JOENSUU,JESSE - 44 SCHREMP,ROB|
|3.35%||EV||58 JOENSUU,JESSE - 26 MOULSON,MATT - 91 TAVARES,JOHN|
|3.26%||EV||12 BAILEY,JOSH - 40 GRABNER,MICHAEL - 58 JOENSUU,JESSE|
Linemate figures from DobberHockey
At the NHL level Joensuu got zero powerplay time to speak of, saw a ton of different linemates that varied from the fourth-line role with limited abilities in Zenon Konopka and Matt Martin and the more offensive role with Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau. He even saw a stretch with Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner before Kyle Okposo returned to form FnGO.
Truthfully, given his limited minutes and age that level of production doesn't bother me. If ELC's were four years instead of three then I'd be expecting another step forward for JJ this year and then let the chips fall where they may. But his RFA status and the pressure from new prospects makes the question a little different.
Joensuu's microstats at Behind the Net don't tell you a whole lot more than what you'd suspect, given his role on that checking line and appearances on with a still evolving Nielsen-Grabner combo and the up-and-down Bailey-Comeau combo.
His Corsi Rel ranks well above the former pairs and below the other two pairs. In terms of the beginning of his shifts, he was placed in fewer offensive situations than everyone except for centers Konopka, Bailey and Nielsen.
So again: His speed limits him, his size and nose around the net helps him, and whether he sticks around is a matter of 1) whether he still wants to pursue a career in North America and 2) whether the Islanders want to leave room for him to continue his development within their depth chart.
To me he's like that guest at your party late in the evening, when another wave of guests might come along. You're happy if he sticks around in the hope that more people show up, but you understand if he's ready to call it a night.
Well, my daddy left home when I was four,
and he didn't leave much when he shut the door,
'cept this stick and puck and a hound we called Anssi.
Now I don't blame him cause he run and hid,
but the oddest thing that he ever did
was before he left he went and named me Jesse.
Well, he must have loved ol' Bo and Luke,
and the uncle of the Hazzard County Dukes,
so give his boy a name that wasn't too trendy.
But it's kind of odd now you must confess
with friends named Teemu and Johannes
to go through life as a Finn who they call Jesse.
Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean
my body got big and my skills got keen
roamed from Pori to Helsinki to play my game.
I made me a vow to the Ukko and the stars,
I'd search the fjords and bars and cars
to find the man that gave me this Southern name.
Well it was Tammerfors in mid July
and I had just hit town and my throat was dry.
I'd thought i'd stop and have myself a Karhu.
At an old pub in a street of melting sludge
at a table eating Finnish fudge
sat this hockey fan, they called The Big Joensuu.
Well, I knew that Piru was my own sweet dad
from a worn-out picture that my mother had
and I knew his tattoo rep'd the of Espoo
He was big and bent and a bit irate
So I grabbed his collar and said: "I'm 58!
for the New York Islanders, Jesse Joensuu!
So Live is Life!" Yeah, that's what I told him.
Do discuss what you'd do with Joensuu and if you think he should or will stay.
But players like him or where I find the grading "based on preseason expectations" prompt fun. Think back to what you saw for him before this season began: Did you think he'd get 42 games? Did you think if he got 42 games (and a mixed role) that he'd do more or less with them? Then vote and sing.