Lucky Number Kleven

Yes, I remember the stupid advertisements for that movie, so now you can too. Headline aside, in the least surprisingly development of the season (cf), the Sens have signed Tyler Kleven (2-44/20) to an ELC. It’s a 3-year deal, which is plenty of time should he require seasoning in Belleville. For those who don’t recall, the Sens packaged two 2nd-round picks to Toronto (Roni Hirvonen (signed; Liiga 57-15-13-28) and Topi Niemela (signed; Liiga 58-8-10-18)) to acquire the pick they used for Kleven. Back in 2021, Corey Pronman (The Athletic) pegged him as a bottom-pairing defensemen, which hadn’t changed a year later. According to Dorion, he’ll play in a couple of NHL games. The signing isn’t about this season however, but next (I suspect in Belleville to start). The org likes to compare his hitting to Dion Phaneuf‘s, but hitting means less in the game than it has since (maybe) the Original Six, so I’m more interested in the other aspects of his game. As for his performance, remember that one good game doesn’t make him great and one bad game doesn’t make him awful–we’re looking for a body of work over time.

Another move the Sens made is bringing Leevi Merilainen over from Finland. Karpat’s season is over and the Sens goaltending situation is a mess, so the move makes sense. He’ll get some starts, as Mandolese‘s numbers have not been great in the AHL (.889), Sogaard and Ferguson are in Ottawa, Bibeau (.892) was awful returning from injury (5 goals and .861), and none of the other lower league goaltenders have performed well. Merilainen had one mediocre season in the OHL, but played well in Finland, so it will be interesting to see how he does with the BSens. I’m more excited for him than Kleven at this stage, largely because his potential impact is far greater (Pronman’s analysis, above, is cursory and based on his prior season–doesn’t make it wrong, but food for thought).

It’s funny how many goaltenders have to leave Ottawa to find their game. The 24-year old (soon to be 25) Filip Gustavsson is enjoying a career year in Minnesota. As a straight one-for-one trade it’s easy to compare his numbers with Cam Talbot:
Gustavsson – 33GP 18-9-5 2.04 .932
Talbot – 32GP 15-14-1 2.85 .904
He leads in every category, but context is important: Minnesota is a better team (41-22-9 vs 35-32-5) and a better defensive team (197GA vs 233GA). There is some sort of Pierre Dorion karmic cycle in effect where most of his pro deals crash and burn. The Wild will undoubtedly keep Gus (an RFA) while Talbot (35+ UFA) was always imagined to be one-and-done. The Sens (going back to Bryan Murray) have had insanely inconsistent approaches with goaltenders and generally picked poorly on when to be patient and when to give up (Ben Bishop, Brian Elliott, Robin Lehner, Chris Driedger, and even depth ‘tenders like Joey Daccord). [After I posted this, The Athletic rated him as the second-best off-season acquisition among goaltenders in the NHL.]

This article was written by Peter Levi