For those who don’t remember Petri Kontiola, he’s the Finnish forward, who bought himself out of the final year of his contract, to return to the NHL.
It sounded like a good plan on paper. Kontiola, 30, spent roughly $500,000 of his own money to leave the KHL and sign a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
However, injuries he was battling throughout the summer forced the Leafs to assign him to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies.
“There are always things that players have to adjust to,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle told reporters last week following Kontola’s assignment. “We felt that he had a good start to camp, but once the pace of the camp, and the exhibition games got up there, that he wasn’t up to speed.
“He has been dealing with some injuries over the course of the last three months, he has some issues in that area, but we’re not in a position here to wait, we have to move forward.”
Originally a seventh-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2004, Kontiola appeared in just 12 games for the Blackhawks during the 2007-08 season registering five assists.
Much of his first tour in North America was spent in the AHL with both the Rockford IceHogs and the Iowa Chops. Kontiola packed up and headed for the KHL following the 2008-09 season, but once again has the desire to play in North America and the NHL.
“That’s my goal,” he said of the NHL, despite starting the season Saturday in the AHL.
Kontiola also dispelled rumors he considered returning to Europe after things didn’t workout with the Leafs.
“I’m here right now, and I just want to get up there,” he said in regards to moving up to the NHL.
Kontiola also cleared up any health concerns saying, “I had something during the summer, but it’s all gone now and I’m ready to go.”
As for Carlyle’s comments about him not being up to speed at Leafs camp, Kontiola said, “I had my own reasons there. But I think I’m ready to play right now and just trying to work on my game.”
He joked, “I’ve got to make that money at some point” when asked whether he had any regrets buying out the final year of his deal in the KHL, but given his age and the money spent, there was likely quite a bit of truth there.
Though being so close to the NHL, affiliated with the Leafs, Kontiola appears quite far from being recalled by Toronto.
Toronto is deep at the forward position. Both Carter Ashton and Josh Leivo were healthy scratches for the season opener on Wednesday and Toronto acquired Richard Panik off waivers from Tampa Bay on Thursday.