The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed Mikko Lehtonen to a one-year contract, giving the unrestricted free agent another chance to show what he can do at the NHL level. The 2020-21 season was Lehtonen’s first in North America after a long professional career overseas. The financial details have not yet been released.
Lehtonen, 27, was a highly sought after free agent last summer following an outstanding season in the KHL. He was named league defenseman of the year after scoring 17 goals and 49 points in 60 games with Jokerit, leading to a one-year contract with Toronto Maple Leafs. Many believed Lehtonen would get a full-time role on the Maple Leafs third pair and likely run the team’s second powerplay unit, but after Zach Bogosian established himself as a more reliable option on North American ice, Lehtonen was eventually moved to the Blue Jackets.
In Columbus, the savvy defenseman played 17 games, recording three points. He averaged 18 minutes a night for the Blue Jackets in those games, more than six minutes more than during his time in Toronto. With a full offseason and training camp to prepare, and room on the Columbus blueline, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Lehtonen find much more success this time around. While he may not be the breakout KHL star that some were hoping for, he’ll get another chance to show he is an NHL-level defenseman.