November 20: Vesalainen has been reassigned to the Manitoba Moose once again, meaning he will likely use his contract clause to return to Finland and join the KHL. It’s an extremely tough situation for the Jets, who obviously want him to remain in North America if possible.
November 16: With reports surfacing that Kristian Vesalainen was set to leave the minor leagues and go back to the KHL after his rights were acquired this week by Jokerit, the Winnipeg Jets instead have recalled him from the AHL. It’s not completely clear if Vesalainen forced the recall with a threat of exercising his contract clause, but he’ll be in the NHL either way for the time being.
The Jets now find themselves in something of a predicament. Vesalainen can exercise the assignment clause at any point if they try to send him back to the minor leagues, but if he’s not ready to play on a full-time basis they risk wasting a year of his development just sitting him in the NHL press box. It’s clear they don’t want him returning to the KHL at the moment, but it’s hard to imagine they’d keep him on the sidelines for very long. After all, the 19-year old forward is a huge part of the Jets future after selecting him 24th overall in 2017 and already giving him his NHL debut this season. He recorded one point in that five-game NHL stint, and has eight in eight with the Manitoba Moose.
A strong, skilled forward, Vesalainen has already dominated the Finnish league and could do the same to the KHL if given the chance. Jokerit is also an excellent program, and is off to a great start this season at 18-5-3. The problem the Jets may see is that a team as strong as Jokerit might not give Vesalainen extensive ice time, especially if they know he won’t be back the following season. For now, the young forward will be in the NHL, but this is a story to follow closely in the coming days.