The wheels of NHL contracts continue to turn this off-season, despite the global pandemic. Today the Maple Leafs signed defence prospect Teemu Kivihalme to a new two-year contract.

Kivihalme turned 25 in June, so this contract should run until the time he becomes an unrestricted free agent as a 27 year old. The NHL compensation is slightly lower than what he has for this season, but there is now a higher possibility he will actually make his NHL debut with the Leafs in the next two years given both Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie are likely leaving the team when this season is over, and we all know the Leafs luck with long-term injuries means someone will be knocked out and a call-up from the AHL will be required.

Kivihalme joined the Marlies last season after spending the previous years in the Finnish Liiga, and in the NCAA prior to that. He was actually drafted by the Predators, but never signed a contract and so became a free-agent. Kyle Dubas signing him out of Liiga was a bit of a surprise; we reported at the time it came out of nowhere, with no previous rumours that it was going to happen.

Maple Leafs sign Teemu Kivihalme to a one-year ELC

Yes, while his name is very Finnish, he was actually raised in Minnesota, which is where his father once worked as the coach of a young Jake Gardiner.

As recorded by Hardev this season, Kivihalme steadily made his way higher up the defence pairings on the Marlies. He worked his way up from the third pair to the first by the end of the season, with some assistance from the Leafs calling up players like Rasmus Sandin to cover for their injuries. He was most frequently paired with Joseph Duszak, occasionally played with Timothy Liljegren, and then almost all the rest of the Marlies defenders on one-off pairings as needed at some point. Needless to say, his ascension to the top line showed some confidence from Marlies Coach Greg Moore.

Both Hardev and I felt he had fit in well with the team this season and produced enough to get another look.

Great deal! Love Kivihalme. Speedy, dynamic defenseman. Came a long way when it came to defense and the team’s system. - Hardev

Katya has also banged the drum for Kivihalme after he didn’t make the cut of our 2019 Top 25 Under 25.

Maple Leafs defender Teemu Kivihalme: snubbed in the T25U25

Kivihalme appeared in 55 Marlies games last season, scoring 4 goals and earning 14 assists. Here’s one of those goals scored during the March 7th game which was the second last Marlies game before the AHL cancelled the remainder of the season.

He had some occasional time on the penalty kill, but it was irregular as the rosters changed so much over the course of the season, so drawing any conclusions there is difficult.

In any case, this is a low risk move with a wide variance of expected outcomes which include Kivihalme being a surprise. It’s nothing to complain about as the Leafs Return to Play.

Kivihalme turned 25 right before the cutoff for our Top 25 Under 25, which was July 1, however if he hadn’t it would be interesting to see where you all of you would rank him.

Where would you rank Kivihalme in our Top 25 Under 25 if he was still eligible?

14 or higher119
15 through 19192
20 through 24127
At 2524
Below 25 / I wouldn’t rank him32