By Kyle Cushman
The Toronto Maple Leafs have dipped into the European unrestricted free agent pool. They signed 23-year-old Finnish forward Miro Aaltonen to an entry-level deal on Friday.
Toronto Maple Leafs Sign Miro Aaltonen to Entry-Level Deal
Aaltonen was a sixth-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks back in 2013. He has played a majority of his career in the SM-Liiga, with the Espoo Blues and Oulun Karpat. In his four seasons in Finland, Aaltonen recorded 119 points in 233 games. He moved to the KHL for the 2016-17 season, signing with Vityaz Podolsk. Aaltonen played on a line with former NHLer Maxim Afinogenov, where he finished third on his team in scoring with 44 points in 59 games, also leading the KHL in under-24 scoring.
A versatile player, Aaltonen can play both wings and center, but has primarily played the left wing this season in Podolsk. Size has been a question mark for Aaltonen. Since his draft he has improved from 5’10” and 176 pounds to 6’0″ and 185 pounds according to the Maple Leafs press release. He plays a smart, two-way game with strong playmaking abilities. He likes to shoot the puck, with an impressive quick release. A creative player, Aaltonen projects as a third-line NHL scorer with power-play abilities.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are not afraid to dip into the UFA KHL market. In back-to-back seasons, the Leafs have added Nikita Soshnikov (2015) and Nikita Zaitsev (2016) from the KHL. Both are now lineup regulars and project to be important components for the Leafs going forward.
Because the Maple Leafs sit at 50 contracts, Aaltonen’s deal doesn’t begin until the 2017-18 season. This puts the Leafs at 31 contracts currently signed for the upcoming season. He does not need to be protected in the expansion draft this summer either.