On Tuesday night, it was reported that the Red Wings have signed Finnish goaltender Jussi Olkinuora to a one-year, two-way contract. According to CapFriendly, the deal is worth $750,000 at the NHL level and $375,000 at the AHL level.
This signing is a bit of a surprise as Olkinuora is technically under contract with EHC Biel-Bienne in Switzerland. The 31-year-old spent the previous three seasons in the KHL, where he was amongst the league’s best goalies, averaging a save percentage of .927 and a record of 50-30-10.
Although undrafted, this is not Olkinuora’s first stop in North America. The 6’3 netminder spent parts of two seasons with the University of Denver, finishing with a record of 11-9-3 and a .926 save percentage before signing with the St. John’s IceCaps, the previous AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets.
Olkinuora would struggle to adjust to the AHL game and was even sent down to the ECHL for long stretches before leaving for his home country ahead of the 2016-17 season. In Finland, Olkinuora would develop into a starter, even representing Finland internationally, before eventually moving on to Russia.
What likely led to the signing of Olkinuora was his performance at the World Championships last month, as he helped Finland to a gold medal finish. In eight starts, Olkinuora had a save percentage of .948 and a goals-against-average of 1.11.
Olkinuora will likely slot in as Detroit’s third goalie and get the majority of the workload down in Grand Rapids, potentially mentoring 2021 first-round pick Sebastian Cossa. But with the uncertainty of how free agency will shake out and the lack of quality in this year’s pool, Olkinuora could compete for Detroit’s backup position behind Alex Nedeljkovic. It will be interesting to see how Olkinuora shows in training camp at the very least and who he will he be competing against for a spot in Detroit.