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Toronto Maple Leafs Acquire G Veini Vehvilainen from Columbus Blue Jackets for D Mikko Lehtonen

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The little-used defender is on to other opportunities as Toronto shores up its goalie depth.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced this afternoon that they have flipped a defender for a goalie.

Vehvilainen, 24, is a two-time Liiga goalie of the year, having put up several dominant seasons there from 2017-2019. This season hasn’t gone quite so well, with an .890 save percentage in 13 Liiga games for JYP, and Vehvilainen’s early returns in the AHL last year weren’t dazzling (.901 in 33 GP.) Vehvilainen has appeared in exactly one NHL game in his career, and it was just shy of eleven minutes he played against the Dallas Stars on March 1st, where he allowed one goal on four shots.

All of this is a long way of saying Vehivilainen is not going to walk in and claim the starter’s job. He’s clearly not on a level with Frederik Andersen or Jack Campbell, at least not yet. He is also waiver exempt, meaning he can be put to the taxi squad or the AHL without risk of being claimed (as befell Aaron Dell earlier this season.) The Leafs don’t have to expose VV in the Seattle expansion draft—he is exempt—but they could do so to meet the exposure requirements if they want.

If you’d like some scouting, this Athletic article by Alison Lukan from 2019 might give you some guidance, even if it’s a little out of date. Here’s a quote from goalie analyst Cat Silverman, discussing the 6’1” Vehvilainen’s compact goaltending stance:

“This can be a strength thing and it can also be a movement fluidity thing, but it does pose the risk of Vehvilainen getting beaten up high at times,” Silverman said. “It is worth pointing out, though, that Vehvilainen does spend a lot more time on his feet and he’s far less likely to play from his knees while moving around his crease. So even though he poses a bigger risk when he is down on his knees, he plays down low like that less frequently — and he stays out a little farther, which means that he’s not as likely to get beaten by being too deep.”

Lehtonen, 27, came over with some modest fanfare after putting up big points for Jokerit Helsinki in the KHL, but never really found a role with the Leafs; he occasionally flashed glimpses on the second power play unit, but the Leafs have other people to do that, and at 5v5 he played less and less as each game went on. Once Travis Dermott and Zach Bogosian settled in as the steady third pairing, Lehtonen was a man without much to do, and so this deal might give him a chance to go where he’s more wanted. Best of luck to Mikko.

Hopefully Veini can round into form and help shore up the Leafs’ goaltending depth, which has always been an area of some concern. Welcome to Toronto (once you finish quarantining), Veini.