On Wednesday, the Winnipeg Jets agreed to terms with free agent forward Saku Maenalanen on a one-year contract.
The deal is worth a league-minimum $750K at the National Hockey League level, and hefty $225K while playing in the American Hockey League.
Much like that of general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff’s previous contracts handed out over the course of the early free agent signing period this past week, Maenalanen will likely be a depth piece, either serving the final bottom-six forward role with the Jets, or rather play decent minutes with the Manitoba Moose next season.
A former fifth round pick (125th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft with the Nashville Predators, the 28-year-old Maenalalnen never actually suited up in Nashville. After five years of professional play within Finland’s Liga, he transitioned over to North America and split the 2018-19 season between the Carolina Hurricanes and Charlotte Checkers.
Maenalanen had four goals and eight points in 34 games in the NHL while adding seven goals and 14 points in 31 minor league contests. Following that season, he went back to his native Finland, where he has remained for the past three years. He had 13 goals and 41 points in 47 games for Karpat last season.
So far, Cheveldayoff has signed defensemen Kyle Capobianco, Ashton Sautner and Elias Salomonsson – all who are expected to play with the Moose, as well as forwards Alex Limoges, Kevin Stenlund and most recently Maenalanen – again, likely candidates for the minors.
His only move that will spend the majority of the season with the big league team is that of a goaltender – a backup goaltender at that, David Rittich, who will serve as Vezina Trophy winning netminder Connor Hellebuyck’s understudy next year.
Maenalanen will likely be in a two or three-dog race alongside David Gustafsson and Kristian Reichel for the final spot on the Jets’ roster this fall, pending injury.
Either way, the Moose look to be team primed to strike and strike often in 2022-23 with the kind of talent that is finding itself ready for AHL action this coming season.