Less than a year after Brian Burke, Fraincois Allaire and the rest of the Toronto management signed Swedish goalie prospect Jonas Gustavsson, they went out into the European free agent market and signed Finnish goaltender Jussi Rynnas.
According to TSN.ca (link here, http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=318903), the Leafs will sign Jussi Rynnas to a two year, two-way entry level contract after Rynnas choose the Maple Leafs over other destinations such as Dallas, Philadelphia, Montreal and Phoenix (at least those were the teams in the running).
Rynnas is a goalie in what is considered to be one of the best goaltender producing leagues in the world, the Finnish Elite League. Finnish goalies have quietly asserted themselves as the premier goaltenders in the world, with youngsters such as Niemi, Rinne and Rask jumping out as the new class of Finns. While Rynnas has a long way to go before being considered as among those names, signing him cannot hurt.
In 31 games, Rynnas compiled a 2.50 GAA and a .929 SV%. At 6 foot 5, Rynnas brings good size comparable to Nashville goalie Pekke Rinne and size has been a sought after commodity in goaltenders of late with Gustavsson (6'3), Rinne (6'5), Koskinen (6'5) and Markstrom (6'5) have all shown the merits of such size.
While Rynnas is by no means a sure fire prospect, it cannot hurt to add a talented goaltender to a system with only one other goaltender in James Reimer.
Rynnas, as reported by TSN, is expected to start in the AHL with the Leafs affiliate the Toronto Marlies.
Many might claim this is a useless signing for a team desperate to grab players to fill a weak part of the system and the team is essentially grasping at straws. This however does not take into the history of Dave Nonis, Brian Burke and goaltending guru Francois Alaire. Under the tenure of Allaire, Giguere and Bryzgalov both flourished and asserted themselves as top goaltenders during their primes (and Burke allowed Bryzgalov playing time in Phoenix to enter his prime). Bukre and Nonis have also had success going the free agent route with Jonas Hiller, who has become Anaheim's top goaltender this year. This doesn't even take into account the Gustavsson signing,while it is early, has see success late in the season under Allaires guide.
Best case scenario, Rynnas becomes all that the Leafs and other teams who pursued him hoped for. Worst case, he doesn't work out, which wouldn't be a loss at all (TO can afford his salary, who are we kidding). At the very least, it gives the Leafs a stronger goaltending system to work with.
Here's another thing to note. Of the last 4 big name European free agents (Rynnas, Gustavsson, MZA and Brunnstrom) 2 have signed with the Leafs and all have had the Leafs as a final candidate for signing. Indicative of a stronger image put forth by Burke, Nonis and Fletcher? I think so.