Toronto Maple Leafs sign Finnish defenceman Teemu Kivihalme

Toronto Maple Leafs Scotiabank Arena (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Toronto Maple Leafs Scotiabank Arena (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

The Toronto Maple Leafs today announced the signing of free agent Finnish defenceman Teemu Kivihalme from Karpat in the Finnish Liiga.

A number of teams around the NHL have begun to dip into the European free agent market in recent weeks and the Toronto Maple Leafs are no strangers to this, snapping up Finnish defenceman Teemu Kivihalme.

The 23-year-old blueliner joins the Leafs on a one-year entry-level contract, which will likely see him carry a yet to be confirmed cap hit of $925,000 – the maximum allowed for rookies in the NHL.

The 6-foot, 181lbs left-hander has taken a long route to making the NHL, playing his junior career in the American high school system before spending one full season in the USHL.

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Prior to his move into the USHL, Kivihalme was selected in the fifth round (140th overall) of the 2013 draft by the Nashville Predators but saw his rights expire after so many years without a contract from the club.

After his stint in the USHL, Kivihalme took his talents to the NCAA with Colorado College, where he earned ten goals and 36 total points in 107 regular season games.

After completing his three-year spell in college, Kivihalme returned to the birthplace of his father and had a very successful two-year stint playing for Karpat in the Finnish Liiga.

In 104 games in the Finnish top tier, Kivihalme registered 13 goals and 50 total points – helping to guide the club to a championship in the 2017/18 season and a second-place finish in 2018/19.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have become regular experimenters with players from the European leagues, giving previously overlooked talents an opportunity in the NHL.

Now they have snapped up Kivihalme along with Ilya Mikheyev, who signed from Avangard Omsk just yesterday.

The Leafs blueline has been a regular area of concern for fans and this off-season is no different, with Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey both being free agents and Igor Ozhiganov opting to return to the KHL after his one-year spell with the team.

With the likes of Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin performing well in the AHL, the= Leafs have a bright future ahead on defence.

It is a sensible decision, however, to bring in some older, more experienced players that will cost the team very little and potential provide them with some valuable contributions.

If Kivihalme is able to be anything more than a seventh defenceman this season, the signing will be viewed as a great success for Kyle Dubas – otherwise, he may find himself sent down to the Marlies, much like Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman.

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What do you think Leafs fans? Are you pleased to see the team taking a gamble on European free agents? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!