Veteran NHL forward Lauri Korpikoski signed in Switzerland with the ZSC Lions of the NLA last summer in an effort to rejuvenate his career. However, things did not go as planned as injuries limited Korpikoski to eight points in just 19 games. He did manage to play in 16 of 18 playoff games for the team, contributing six points, en route to a league title, but overall the season was a disappointment for the two-way forward. As a result, Korpikoski will not be returning to the NHL nor re-signing with the Lions, but instead he will head home to Finland. Korpikoski has signed with TPS of the Liiga, the organization he began his hockey career with all the way back in juniors, the team announced.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this move is that the 31-year-old has reportedly inked a six-year deal with TPS. The team revealed that the contract allows Korpikoski to play abroad during the term of the deal, but the length implies that Korpikoski may be resigned to the fact that his days as an elite player are over. While TPS itself is a historic club that finished second in the regular season last year, the Liiga is at best the fifth-best pro league in the world. A veteran of more than 600 NHL games and former first-round pick, its just as easy to believe that Korpikoski could still make a living for himself in the NHL or elsewhere.
Korpikoski was drafted 19th overall by the New York Rangers in 2004, but didn’t debut with the team until 2008-09. He was then dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes after just one year in New York and flourished into a legitimate two-way top-nine forward. Korpikoski recorded 145 points in 401 games over six seasons with the Coyotes and twice received votes for the Selke Trophy during that time. In his final two seasons in Arizona and the subsequent two years spent with the Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, and Columbus Blue Jackets, Korpikoski was a consistent albeit unspectacular performer, with four straight years of 20-odd points in around 70 games while playing a more physical, checking style. However, this wasn’t enough to draw sufficient interest from NHL teams last summer and Korpikoski hoped a year away in Switzerland could bring back his 40-point play from his early years with the ’Yotes. This didn’t happen with ZSC, but with TPS there is still a chance that he could rediscover his elite two-way game. If not, he has the security to simply stay home and help develop future Finnish stars over the course of his six-year deal.