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Numbers Game: Kontiola, Komarov, Sekac, Lehtera signings

Scott Cullen
7/3/2014 5:03:54 PM
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The Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues all augmented their free agent classes by signing some European free agents.

Numbers Game examines the signings of Petri Kontiola, Leo Komarov, Jiri Sekac and Jori Lehtera.

The Maple Leafs Sign: C Petri Kontiola and LW Leo Komarov.

Komarov is a familiar face for the Maple Leafs, a 27-year-old winger who was a regular in the Leafs' lineup in 2012-2013 before returning to the KHL for a nice payday last season. Komarov had a strong year in the KHL, with Moscow Dynamo, leading the team with 34 points in 52 games, and he played for Finland in both the Olympics and the World Championships.

Komarov didn't score much in his first go-round with the Leafs, tallying nine points in 42 games, but there may be more offence to his game than that. Usage would play a big part in whether or not Komarov is ever a factor offensively, but he's being brought back to Toronto more for his attitude than production. Komarov is a relentless pest, who hits a lot and gets under opponents' skin. To his credit, he did have solid relative possession stats for the Leafs a couple of years ago.

Here's the issue with Komarov, though. If he is capable of contributing offensively, and could fill a top-nine role, then it could justify the four-year, $11.8-million contract he received. If he's the same energetic fourth-liner that he was a couple of years ago -- a distinct possibility -- then he's vastly overpaid.

Kontiola is a 29-year-old who was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2004 and played a dozen games with the Blackhawks in 2007-2008, registering five assists and, in that small sample, putting up great possession stats. In two AHL seasons, Kontiola scored 140 points in 159 (regular season plus playoff) games, before heading to the KHL, where he has scored 152 points in 204 games over the past four seasons, the last three with Chelyabinsk Traktor. He had 14 points in 16 games playing for Finland at the Olympics and in the World Championships.

With that track record, it's possible that Kontiola could contribute some offence for the Maple Leafs but, as a 29-year-old who has barely seen NHL action, he could also be a spare part. The good news is that, signed to a contract for $1.1-million for one season, he's a low-risk investment. If he wins a spot in the lineup and contributes, they can work on an extension; if he doesn't, no big deal.

The Canadiens Sign: RW Jiri Sekac.

22-year-old Jiri Sekac was suddenly a hot name on the free agent market this spring after a nice season in the KHL, scoring 11 goals and 28 points in 47 games for Prague Lev, leading his team in points per game (0.60).

As a junior, Sekac played a little in North America, earning zero points in eight games with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL as a 17-year-old before joining Youngstown of the USHL, where he scored 56 points in 96 games. Understandably, with that production, he wasn't considered a hot NHL prospect and went to the KHL, where he scored 21 points in 83 games over two seasons before breaking out last season.

Signed for two years, at an entry-level of max of $925,000 per season (plus bonuses), Sekac is rapidly-improving and his potential drew lots of interest throughout the league, but it would be premature -- considering he's had basically one productive scoring season in three years -- to put big expectations on his scoring significantly for Montreal next season. However, if Sekac found a spot in Montreal's top nine, maybe he could contribute some offence as a rookie.

The Blues Sign: C Jori Lehtera.

Lehtera, 26, was a third-round pick of the Blues in 2008 and has played all of 14 (regular season plus playoff games) in North America since, managing three points with Peoria in the 2008-2009 season. Since then, however, Lehtera has been very productive as a playmaking centre.

In the past three seasons, playing for Novosibirsk Sibir in the KHL, Lehtera has tallied 39 goals and 118 points in 125 games (with zero goals and eight points in 13 playoff games). The 6-foot-2 centre had 12 points in 10 games at the World Championships this year, as well as four points in six games at the Olympics, not looking the least bit out of place against high-level competition.

Coming to North America may require some adjustment, but Lehtera is going to have an opportunity to put up points right out of the game, slated to skate on the Blues' second line with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko on his wings. With quality playing time on a strong team, Lehtera could make an impact right away. 50 points seems a reasonable expectation, but there's upside beyond that if he can make a smooth transition.

Lehtera is signed for two years, at a total cost of $5.5-million, a very reasonable price if he ends up fulfilling a top-six role for the Blues. His presence, along with Paul Stastny, allows the Blues to move David Backes and Patrik Berglund to the wing, giving the team outstanding depth up front.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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