The Pittsburgh Penguins have dipped into the European free agent pool. Following Finland’s elimination from the World Hockey Championships, with an upset loss to Switzerland earlier today, the Penguins signed Finnish defenceman Juuso Riikola. The 24-year-old had two assists in eight games during the tournament.
Finland’s loss is Pittsburgh’s gain. Sources say the Pens have agreed to terms with Finnish Dman, Juuso Riikola. Left shot. 24 yrs old.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) May 17, 2018
Riikola was an alternate captain with KalPa in the SM-Liiga. He put up eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points in 59 games last season. Riikola also added 14 minutes in penalties. In six playoff games, Riikola put up just one assist.
The Joensuu, Finland native has spent six seasons playing for KalPa’s senior team, after coming up through their academy programs. He has put up 26 goals and 63 assists for 89 points in 283 career SM-Liiga games. He finished second in the SM-Liiga with KalPa in 2016-17. Earlier this off-season Riikola left KalPa as a Finnish league free agent, signing with Lukko. There is no indication of how this NHL deal affects his Finnish league future. It is possible that his contract has a European-assignment clause.
While financial terms have not yet been released, due to Riikola’s age he will receive a one-year two-way entry-level contract at a maximum of $950,000. It is also possible that there will be some level of performance-based bonuses in his game.
Riikola is known for his strong two-way play. He has been effective at both ends of the rink for KalPa. He will come to Penguins training camp looking to earn a spot on the Pittsburgh blue line. If he does not make the team, he will not need waivers to go down to the AHL.
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