Toronto Maple Leafs 2017 second-round pick Eemeli Räsänen will be heading overseas, after signing a two-year deal with Jokerit of the KHL.
On Friday, Jokerit of the KHL announced that they have signed Finnish defenceman Eemeli Räsänen to a two-year deal.
Jokerit is the lone team from Finland playing in the KHL. They began to play in the league during the 2014-15 season and have been a steady team that hangs around the top of the standings in the same conference as the two giants of Russia: SKA St. Petersburg and CSKA Moskva.
Last season, they had a 103-point campaign and made it to the Western Conference semi-finals, where they lost to CSKA in six games.
The Predators’ 2017 first round pick showed strong play as a teenager in the KHL, earning him an entry-level contract with the Predators at the end of this season.
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Jokerit will be returning the majority of their roster from last season. Along with Räsänen, the team also signed former Toronto Marlies defender Viktor Loov and SHL standout Sakari Manninen on Friday.
As for the Maple Leafs, they likely won’t see Räsänen with the club for a couple of years now, assuming that a position in the NHL doesn’t open up. One would conclude that the Finnish blueliner made the decision to head home, in order to play against tougher competition and further his development in a professional league.
This also gives him a chance to play with his fellow countrymen. Jokerit features 18 other Finnish nationals on their roster heading into the 2018-19 season. The team plays out of Helsinki, which is only five hours away from Räsänen’s hometown of Joensuu.
Räsänen had a strong start to his season in the OHL with the Kingston Frontenacs. He was reported to have made the Finnish team at the World Juniors. But when the rosters came out, he was left off.
That seemed to be a massive turning point for Räsänen, who only managed six points over the first 23 games of the new year.
He finished the season with five goals and 33 points in 61 games. In the playoffs, Räsänen had six points and six penalty minutes in 16 games for Kingston, who was bounced from the OHL playoffs by the Hamilton Bulldogs in five games.
After his OHL campaign ended, Räsänen began skating with the Toronto Marlies at practices. He never suited up for the team though, as he didn’t sign an amateur tryout deal.
Per CapFriendly.com, the KHL and NHL do not have a player transfer agreement. This means that drafted players have an indefinite date for when their exclusive signing rights end.
This is the case with several prospects on the Leafs like Yegor Korshkov, Nikolai Chebykin, Vladislav Kara and Vladimir Bobylev, who are all playing in Russia currently.
Because he was drafted as a CHL player, however, Räsänen, whose signing rights were set to expire on June 1 of next year, would now be extended to 2021 if the Leafs gave him a Bona Fide offer.
"A Bona Fide Offer is the offer of a standard players contract that meets the entry-level contract requirements as specified in the NHL CBA. The contract must meet the minimum salary requirements, must be the appropriate ELC length, and must remain open to the player for at minimum 30 days following the offer. [CBA 8.6 (e)]. – Via CapFriendly.com"
Playing for one of the best teams in the KHL will only help the 19-year-old, who saw a dip in offensive production and a rise in penalty minutes playing for Kingston this season in the OHL.