Update: Seven minutes after this was posted, he signed with the Leafs. Figures. I’m leaving this up here because I’m stubborn.
Over the weekend, news broke that the KHL’s top defenseman Mikko Lehtonen would not be re-signing in the KHL. After that, he was linked to several teams, including the cross-town New Jersey Devils. However some sleuthing saw that Lehtonen was following the New York Rangers, one of his more recent follows, on Instagram.
Naturally speculation began to swirl once that was discovered. There could be a simple explanation, as he also follows Kaapo Kakko, and he’s a Ranger. Since we don’t know exactly when he followed the Rangers, we can’t really pinpoint anything else other than he follows the Rangers. There are reports out of the Czech Republic that he’s interested in the Rangers too, but I have no idea how credible that is.
— Stat Boy Steven 🇳🇱🇦🇹 (@StatBoy_Steven) May 2, 2020
As for the fit, well Lehtonen is a left handed defenseman and the Rangers have a huge hole to fill there. At 26 years old, he put up a line of 17-32-49 in 60 games. He’s a great skater with a booming shot off the pointHe’s also Finnish, and you know how I feel about hockey players from Sweden and Finland. They just do everything right. He’s expected to be able to slide into the lineup right away.
The problem with thinking he’s going to be a Ranger is that, well, it sets you up for disappointment. All 31 teams in the league want Lehtonen. The only thing we are working off of is his Instagram, which is a poor source to form any logical rumor. It’s all speculation at this point.
We only know two things: 1) He’s a UFA, and 2) He follows the Rangers on Instagram. That’s it. As a UFA, I don’t believe he is subject to the standard entry level contract rules in the NHL. I think it’s up to the highest bidder. This goes into that cap space conundrum the Rangers will be going through this summer.
One other note on Lehtonen: He would not be available to the Rangers if the 2019-2020 season resumes. He would be signed beginning in 2020-2021.