On Monday the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they had signed Kontinental Hockey League star Mikko Lehtonen to a one year entry level contract. It was a huge get for the Maple Leafs as there were reportedly a number of teams in hunt for Lehtonen including Canadian rivals the Montreal Canadiens, but Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas managed to entice the KHL's leading scorer among defensemen to come to his organization.
No doubt the level of talent that the Maple Leafs currently boast on their roster including star players like Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner played a role in the Finnish defenseman's decision to come to North America, but it sounds like Kyle Dubas may have had a couple of advantages when it came to luring the talented defenseman to the Maple Leafs. On Monday Lehtonen spoke to the media for the first time since officially becoming a Maple Leaf and it was during those conversations that he revealed that we was familiar with Kasperi Kapanen and also a good friend of Mikko Rantanen. Assuming that the Colorado Avalanche were not among the teams in the mix for Lehtonen, it would make sense for him to choose a team that has a player on their roster he already has some familiarity with.
Lehtonen also revealed that his decision had also been impacted by the way the Maple Leafs currently play hockey. Lehtonen told journalists on Monday that he believes his game and the Leafs style of play will be a good match for one another.
"I'm pretty happy with (joining) the Leafs. I think my game fits pretty well with Toronto," said the newest Maple Leaf.
One of the concerns with this announcement was that the Maple Leafs were once again adding a defenseman that naturally shoots left, but Lehtonen has been praised for his ability to play on both sides of the ice and even made a surprising revelation about how he feels playing on what is supposed to be his weak side.
"Sometimes I like it more," said Lehtonen.
At the end of the day it remains to be seen if Lehtonen's skills will translate to the NHL level but if he can retain any semblance of his KHL form, especially on a one year entry level contract that comes cheap for the cap strapped Maple Leafs, this will prove to be one of the shrewdest moves of Kyle Dubas' tenure in Toronto.