Several players with links to the NHL signed in Finland today, including Stanley Cup champion David Rundblad. The veteran defenseman has signed with Karpat, while Kevin Czuczman, Jyrki Jokipakka, and Eetu Tuulola are among the players joining Ilves.
Rundblad, 31, won the Cup in 2015 with the Chicago Blackhawks, just a year before departing for Europe. A 2009 first-round pick by the St. Louis Blues, his time in North America equated to 121 NHL games, including just eight in the postseason. After winning a Swiss title with the ZSC Lions, he spent several seasons in the KHL, playing for SKA St. Petersburg and HK Sochi. Now his journey will take him to Finland.
The other three, meanwhile, have much more recent ties to North America. Czuczman spent this season with the Iowa Wild of the AHL, and is just over a year removed from suiting up for two NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Those were his first NHL games since 2013-14 with the New York Islanders, as he became a full-time minor league player, spending time with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Manitoba Moose, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins over the years.
Jokipakka, a seventh-round pick of the Dallas Stars in 2011, has 150 NHL games under his belt, including 41 of them in 2016-17. He’s been in the KHL since but now returns home to play for the club that developed him in the first place.
While Czuczman and Jokipakka may be in the back half of their careers, Tuulola only just turned 24 and was still a depth option for the Calgary Flames. He played with the Stockton Heat this season, scoring 25 points in 61 games. Coming off his entry-level contract, the Flames will be able to retain his exclusive negotiating rights if they extend a qualifying offer. Notably, his contract in Finland is for just one year.
No cheating…anyone want to guess how Czuczman pronounces his last name?