The 2022-23 NHL season is drawing ever closer to a dramatic close. The Vegas Golden Knights can move one step closer to hockey’s ultimate prize with a win tonight, avoiding a similar fate to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final when they were swept in Games 2 through 5 by the Washington Capitals. The Florida Panthers, meanwhile, will need to play a tighter and more disciplined road game to avoid falling into a 2-0 hole in the series.
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, there still remains quite a lot of movement in the free agency and transfer markets. As always, we’ll list today’s notable moves right here.
- Liiga club HIFK made significant strides today to build a championship-caliber roster for 2023-24, inking six players to commitments between one and two seasons. The most notable among them is 17-year-old defender Aron Kiviharju, who’s expected to be among the first five names called in the 2024 NHL Draft. The left-shot, 5-foot-10 rearguard had spent his development up until this point with TPS, where he made his Liiga debut last season, recording three assists in 21 games. Kiviharju also recorded 20 points in 22 U20 league games and notched seven assists in five games at the 2023 U18 World Juniors. His contract was through the 2024-25 campaign, but he could potentially be in the NHL for the second season of that deal.
- HIFK’s big signing up front was former St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers center Jori Lehterä. Lehterä is still going strong overseas at age 35, finishing second in Liiga scoring last season with Tappara after posting 57 points in 57 games. He was instrumental in Tappara’s second straight championship, and he also helped guide the team to a Champions Hockey League title. Lehterä, who last played in the NHL with the Flyers in 2018-19, was sentenced to four months of probation in Finland in 2019 for obtaining and possessing cocaine.
- HIFK is also bringing former NHL defender Sami Lepistö into the fold at age 38. It will be quite the gap between appearances in Finland’s top league for Lepistö, who last suited up in the SM-liiga (as it was then called) for Helsinki club Jokerit in 2006-07. After a five-season NHL career between 2007 and 2012 which saw him play for Washington, Phoenix, Columbus, and Chicago, Lepistö did spend four seasons with Jokerit once again between 2017 and 2021, but the team was then playing in the KHL. The 2004 Capitals draft pick recorded five goals and 20 points in 52 games last season for the NL’s SCL Tigers.
- Boston-born forward Greg Mauldin is one of the last remaining active forwards from the 2002 NHL Draft despite not having played in the NHL since 2010-11 with the Colorado Avalanche. In recent years, the 40-year-old has found a home for himself in Norway’s top league, where he’ll extend his stay for another season with the Stavanger Oilers. In the past two seasons, Mauldin’s recorded 16 points in 30 combined playoff games to help Stavanger to back-to-back league championships. In 2021-22, Mauldin did briefly attempt a North American comeback with the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings, where he played just five games.
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