The Toronto Maple Leafs were up early this morning, working on filling out the depth for next season. They announced the signing of Mikko Lehtonen to a one-year Entry Level Contract.
Lehtonen is a 26-year-old left-shooting defender who spent the previous season with Jokerit Helsinki of the KHL. He has an offensive side to his game, scoring 49 points in 60 games last season, and has won gold for Finland at the 2014 World Juniors and the 2019 World Championships.
First 4-point game in KHL: done— KHL (@khl_eng) February 18, 2020
What Mikko Lehtonen can't do? pic.twitter.com/woEi6xrRAX
He’s played in multiple top leagues in Europe, spending time in Liiga, the SHL, and KHL, and made his professional debut before he won the World Juniors.
With the defense corps for the Leafs pretty much settled up top, and a few young players fighting for the bottom pairing - Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren - it will be tight getting Lehtonen into the lineup. The battle will come in training camp, whenever that is, and we’ll be able to get a good look at the newest Maple Leaf then.
Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports the deal has no signing bonuses:
Mikko Lehtonen's entry-level contract doesn't include any performance bonuses for next season. Just like Alexander Barabanov. Another much-needed cost-controlled option for the #leafs.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 4, 2020
Finnish hockey commentator Jokke Nevalainen suggests Lehtonen might be a bona fide player in the NHL. Whether the implication about Rasmus Sandin is valid, well, we’ll see.
Rielly and Muzzin are clearly ahead but after that, Lehtonen is capable of being the 3rd best defenseman on that team (assuming no additions). Obviously that means at least one LHD has to play on the right side but that shouldn't be an issue.— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) May 4, 2020
Bad news for Sandin IMO.
Highlights are in the video below, interview has no captions though.