The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Leo Komarov out of the KHL on Tuesday in a depth move, but because he may end up on the NHL roster next season, I wanted to talk a little bit more about what he brings to the table.
Born in Estonia but a Finn growing up, Komarov has played the past three seasons with Moscow Dynamo and was that team's captain most of this past year.
A sixth-round pick in 2006, he only had 24 points in 46 games, but the KHL is a very low scoring league and he also had health issues (mycoplasma pneumonia) that hindered his season for at least a month this year.
Because he's only 25, the deal he signed with the Leafs was a one-year, entry level contract with a cap hit of $1.2-million ($850,000 in base salary with another $350,000 in potential bonuses).
As with all entry level deals, it's a two-way contract and my sense is he would be willing to play in the AHL for a little while if it comes to that. (He would only make $62,500 in the minors, which is signficantly lower than what he made in the KHL so that's not a long-term option.)
However, his Finnish agent, Ilkka Larva, believes Komarov is going to fit in well at the NHL level because he fits the role of a checker despite his modest size.
"Leo has been a fan favourite everywhere he's played," Larva said. "He's a great skater, finishes checks... and kills penalties effectively. He's played in many different roles in different teams and molds into coach's plans like a chameleon – very versatile player that is."
"You've seen him, he's not big," Leafs GM Brian Burke told The Canadian Press at the worlds earlier this month. "But he's dynamic, explosive, obnoxious and skilled. He's a really hard guy to play against."
Whether that translates to the NHL level remains to be seen, but now they'll get a look at him in an NHL training camp and exhibition games and go from there.
The Leafs need to get cheaper and more defensively sound among their bottom six forwards, so maybe there's a role for Komarov there on the fourth line or as a 13th forward next season.