The Columbus Blue Jackets have extended defenceman Mikko Lehtonen through the 2021-22 season. His cap hit will be $900,000. The Jackets have not spent much on external players this summer, but they have managed to retain many of their internal options for the future. The team announced the extension Friday afternoon.
— CBJ Public Relations (@BlueJacketsPR) July 30, 2021
Blue Jackets Extend Mikko Lehtonen
Lehtonen began the year with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he went to Columbus in a trade for Veini Vehvilainen in March. The 27-year-old Finn would appear in 26 games between the two franchises with no goals and just six points. However, he did collect 30 hits and 15 blocks in an average of 15:53 per game. He wasn’t particularly good at driving offence with a 45.4 percent Corsi For and -3.6 relative Corsi, but it was far too small of a sample size to draw serious conclusions.
2020-21 represented Lehtonen’s first year playing in North America. He had skated for several different teams in Sweden, Finland and Russian with solid results. His most recent season was spent with the KHL’s Jokerit franchise. That is where Lehtonen recorded 17 goals and 49 points in 60 regular-season games. He is a good low-cost option for a rebuilding Columbus franchise.
What This Means
The Blue Jackets do not have an obvious slot for the left-handed defender right now, but he is worth rotating in for now. The team’s third pairing could feature Jake Bean, but the former 13th overall pick from 2016 has just 44 games, himself. Expect some mixing and matching on the blueline while the team finds the right combinations.
Columbus has just $11.2 million in remaining cap space after this signing. They have just one restricted free agent left unsigned in Andrew Peeke. That means they could look for something like a third goaltender or seek out further roster reinforcements. The team probably won’t be a contender in the coming year, but they’ll be one to watch given their general pool of talent.