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Jani Hakanpaa’s status ‘big question mark’ for Toronto Maple Leafs

Jani Hakanpaa’s status ‘big question mark’ for Toronto Maple Leafs
Jani Hakanpaa’s status ‘big question mark’ for Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving named Jani Hakanpaa as one of the team’s new players on July 1, but more than a week later, no official announcement has been made.

TSN Hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that Hakanpaa has signed a two-year, $3 million contract, but there seems to be growing concern about a knee injury he suffered earlier this year.

“That obviously raised red flags that we haven’t had confirmation because of the knee injury he had at the end of last season,” TSN’s Mark Masters said Monday on SC with Jay Onrait. “He didn’t play in the playoffs (with the Dallas Stars), he hasn’t played since mid-March. So that’s a big question mark.

“If he can play and they make that signing official, he’ll help kill penalties. Last season, that was their 23rd total and that really hit them in the playoff series against Boston.”

Hakanpaa, 32, had 10 goals and 10 assists in 64 games with the Stars last season before the injury, averaging 18:38 of ice time. Stars general manager Jim Nill confirmed after the season that Hakanpaa had undergone arthroscopic surgery on his knee, but it was not expected that further surgeries would be required.

Selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the St. Louis Blues, the Finnish defenceman made his NHL debut in the 2019-20 season with the Anaheim Ducks. He has 15 goals and 45 points in 288 games with the Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes and Stars.

If Hakanpaa does join the Maple Leafs, he’ll be competing for a spot on the blueline, with CapFriendly currently projecting eight other defencemen on the roster. Morgan Rielly, Chris Tanev, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Timothy Liljegren, Jake McCabe and Simon Benoit all appear to be assured of opening day roster spots, while Hakanpaa could be competing for a spot with rookie Conor Timmins and free-agent signee Dakota Mermis.