After the reported signing of Swedish centre Par Lindholm, the Toronto Maple Leafs have made another addition from the European free agent market. Igor Ozhiganov is a 25-year-old right-handed defenseman who has spent parts of the last eight seasons in the Kontinential Hockey League (KHL). Since 2015 he has been a big part of a successful CSKA team, never missing the playoffs as a member of the team. He was linked to the Leafs as early as August 2017 when Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello travelled to Russia to pay him a visit. Reports out of Russia indicate he has signed a one-year deal with the Leafs. This would be the first signing for new Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas.
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) May 17, 2018
Ozhiganov is a good skater for his size, 6’2″ and 210 lbs. Even coming off a down year in offensive production, he will challenge for the “Roman Polak” position with the Leafs. He can penalty kill, check, block shots, everything teams look for in a bottom-pairing defenceman. Oddly enough, Ozhiganov was reduced to that role with CSKA at times because of the Leafs buyout of fellow right-handed defenceman Alexei Marchenko, who promptly returned to CSKA. Ozhiganov performed admirably in his role, helping his Moscow team reach the Gagarin Cup finals, only to lose to another possible future Leaf, Ak Bars Kazan’s Vladimir Tkachyov.
While contract details have not been released the CBA indicates that Ozhiganov was bound to a one-year Entry Level Contract (ELC). The maximum on such a contract includes a $925,000 salary plus bonuses. He will be exempt from waivers, and if he’s sent to the Marlies he will have an AHL salary as this will be a two-way deal. A much cheaper option than Polak has been over the years, Ozhiganov’s signing has almost entirely ensured the loyal Czech will not be returning for a third time.
This marks the seventh European free agent signed since March 2015, most notably including Nikita Zaitsev and Andreas Borgman. It remains to be seen if Ozhiganov joins the Marlies. It could be on a Professional Try-Out (PTO) for the playoffs, or simply to workout and familiarize himself with the city and staff.
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