It turns out that Mikko Lehtonen’s time in the KHL isn’t over yet after all. The Maple Leafs announced (Twitter link) that they have loaned the blueliner back to Jokerit to start next season. He’s expected to report to the team next week.
Toronto signed the 26-year-old back in May after he and Jokerit agreed to a mutual termination of his existing KHL deal and the Maple Leafs beat out several other NHL suitors for his services. He’s coming off quite a year, one that saw him pick up 17 goals and 32 assists in 60 regular season games (plus four points in six playoff contests before COVID-19 shut down their postseason). He was limited to a one-year, entry-level contract due to his age and he’ll actually hit the open market again in the 2021 offseason.
Lehtonen will be the second Toronto player loaned out to the KHL to start next season as it was reported earlier this week that Egor Korshkov would be loaned to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl to get some playing time in before training camps start up.
It’s that performance that has many expecting that he’ll be a part of Toronto’s back end when the puck drops on the 2020-21 season which is pegged to be in early December as things stand. Loaning Lehtonen out in the meantime will allow him to get some playing time and should help give him a leg up in training camp.