The Toronto Maple Leafs went back to the KHL to add some much-needed depth on the blue line by signing defenceman Mikko Lehtonen to a one-year deal.
When it was made known that Mikko Lehtonen was able to get out of his contract with Jokerit, the Toronto Maple Leafs were not among the favourites to land the KHL defenceman.
Instead, the Leafs were able to convince the 26-year-old to sign a one-year, entry-level deal beating out the Montreal Canadiens, the New Jersey Devils, and the New York Rangers, who were among the teams that heavily pursued the free agent. This is the second free agent the Leafs have signed recently after Alexander Barabanov agreed to a one-year deal earlier.
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The strange part about this signing is that Lehtonen is a left-handed shot which means the Leafs will have five options when training camp opens in Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Rasmus Sandin, Travis Dermott, Martin Marincin (who also plays the right side) and now Lehtonen.
As Maple Leafs Hotstove mentions, Lehtonen has spent some time playing on the right side which could be something the teams explores. Toronto can also choose to move Dermott to the right side or if they are not comfortable with that then he could be used as a trade chip in a deal to land a right-handed shot defenceman.
A big strength that Lehtonen brings is a strong point shot which the Leafs really don’t have and whether he gets a shot on the first or second power-play unit, it would be an added bonus. He also fits the Leafs mould of being an extremely mobile defender that can move the puck efficiently.
In 60 games this past season, Lehtonen put up 17 goals and 49 points and even if he has a slight decline in offensive production, there isn’t a reason why he won’t get a chance to show his offensive potential.
Jokke Nevalainen of Dobber Prospects says that Lehtonen’s skating helps his defensive game which shouldn’t make him a liability at the NHL level. Considering he was regarded as the best defenceman playing in Europe and has played in the both the KHL and SHL, the Leafs should be content with their latest signing.
What do you think about the Leafs’ latest signing? Where do you think he fits on the current roster and what should the team do going forward? Let us know in the comments below.