Leafs sign Jussi Rynnäs

Leafs sign Jussi Rynnäs

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Brian Burke has picked up yet another wallet. According to a Finnish report, the Toronto Maple Leafs have agreed to terms on a two year deal with Finnish free agent goaltender Jussi Rynnäs. Jussi is still just 22 years of age, and is coming off a stellar year in the Finnish SM-Liiga in which he posted a 2.50 GAA and a 0.929 SV%. Rynnäs is still at least a couple years away from being NHL-ready, and will start next season splitting time with James Reimer for the Toronto Marlies. Jussi was arguably this year’s most coveted free agent goaltender, along with NCAA netminder Ben Scrivens, whom the Leafs had also been linked to over the past couple weeks.

Courtesy of our friends over at PPP, here is a translation of the news article:

“Rynnäs moves to Toronto

Jussi Rynnäs, who attracted NHL teams interest during this season, will continue his career on the other side of the pond (Atlantic ocean). The goalie’s new club is Toronto Maple Leafs. Satakunnan Kansa was the first one to break the news.

There was a big competition for Rynnäs during the whole spring. Finally the man chose Toronto to his destination, which he believes is the best place for him the develop to NHL level goaltender.”

Dallas must really be starting to hate Burke and the Maple Leafs now. The Toronto Sun reported yesterday evening that the sweepstakes for the “Finnish Monster” were coming to an end, but that the Dallas Stars were the supposed frontrunners to secure Jussi’s services.

It’s bizarre that Rynnäs would choose to sign with a team that would have arguably three other goaltenders above him on the depth chart, but it appears that the influence of Francois Allaire is not to be underestimated. As Jonas Hiller, Craig Anderson, and Ilya Bryzgalov have shown, if you work hard and show that you can play, you will get a chance to succeed in this league.

That’s likely the scenario that Burke was pitching and the one Jussi is hoping for: the chance to come in and further develop his skills to a point where he can push Reimer/Gustavsson for the role of the Leafs’ future between the pipes. If he shows that he can be a quality goalie, he will get a chance either here or somewhere else, of that there is no doubt. So the primary concern for the youngster at this point is to get a chance to work with the world’s top goalie coach and anything else can come later. This is where a GM’s history of treating players the right way can become so valuable: no goalie under a Brian Burke regime has been refused the chance to succeed in the NHL.

As mentioned above, Rynnäs is still quite raw and it will take some time before he is molded into a capable NHL netminder. Standing at 6’4 205 lbs, he possesses a nice frame and quick reflexes, but much like Gustavsson, can struggle with positioning and rebound control. Andy Strickland mentioned last month that as many as 18 NHL teams were pursuing the late-blooming Finnish goaltender.

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