Jokerit, the Finnish team in the KHL based in Helsinki, today announced they have signed Leafs propsect Eemeli Räsänen to a 2-year deal.

Räsänen was drafted 59th overall last summer by the Maple Leafs. He has just turned 19, and is a right-shooting defender. He was playing for the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL in his pre-draft year, and he played there a second season this year.

This move may affect the length of time the Leafs hold his draft rights:

Assuming that holds true for Räsänen, his development window has just gotten longer while he moves to one of the top few teams in Europe.

Jokerit has a storied history, and Jari Kurri as General Manager, as part of the Finnish Liiga.  In 2013, the team joined the KHL where they have enjoyed enormous success, and have been a top contender in the West Conference every year.

The quality of teammates Räsänen will enjoy has just shot up by a large margin. The head coach of the team is new this year. Lauri Marjamäki, who just coached Finland’s national team at the World Championships is taking over.

Jokerit is the ideal KHL team for a young player looking to move into the NHL. It worked very well for Eeli Tolvanen, and while the team is majority Finnish, the opponents aren’t giving players a wider range of experience. The roster is also cosmopolitan and largely English-speaking with two Americans, two Swedes and several Danes.

Karri Rämö will be in net for the team again, and their veteran defender is Sami Lepistö, a man I consider to be one of if not the best defencemen in Europe. That’s a great person to learn from, under a young and innovative coach.

This is an excellent move for Räsänen, and might be very much better for him than playing in the AHL would be.

Cap Friendly has now confirmed the rights issue:

A bona fide offer is part of the CBA nearly everyone ignores, but all players drafted out of junior hockey have to be issued that offer by June 1 following their draft. It’s usually a minimum contract and is not accepted as few players are ready at 19 to play NHL hockey and they aren’t eligible for the AHL.