It appears that Sami Niku’s time in North America may be coming to an end. Ilta-Sanomat’s Sasha Huttunen reports that several teams in Finland’s SM-liiga have shown interest in the defenseman with JYP Jyvaskyla considered the favorite to sign him.
The 25-year-old elected to terminate his contract with Winnipeg back in September in the hopes of landing with a club that would give him more of a chance at the NHL level. In doing so, he walked away from a one-way deal with the Jets to take a two-way deal with the Canadiens.
While Niku broke camp with Montreal, injuries and some early struggles limited him to just 13 NHL contests. While he was relatively productive in those contests with six assists, he went unclaimed on waivers in late January, resulting in him being sent to AHL Laval where he remained for the rest of the season. For someone that has been billed as an offensive defender, Niku didn’t put up many points in the minors, recording just 13 in 36 games down the stretch although he managed to pick up 11 assists in 15 playoff contests.
Still, for a player that was named the AHL’s best defenseman in 2017-18, Niku’s fall from grace has been fairly quick, going from a player viewed with a lot of upside to basically being out of the league just a few years later. With that in mind, returning home and perhaps to the organization he called home before being drafted by Winnipeg certainly makes some sense. Playing time should come more consistently and a good showing for a year or two could have him back on the NHL radar should he decide to try playing in North America down the road.