Ottawa Senators sign Finnish defenceman Nikolas Matinpalo

Sweden's forward Carl Grundstrom (L) and Finland's defender Nikolas Matinpalo vie during the IIHF Ice Hockey Men's World Championships Preliminary Round - Group A match between Finland and Sweden in Tampere, Finland, on May 15, 2023. (Photo by Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP) / Finland OUT (Photo by HEIKKI SAUKKOMAA/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images)
Sweden's forward Carl Grundstrom (L) and Finland's defender Nikolas Matinpalo vie during the IIHF Ice Hockey Men's World Championships Preliminary Round - Group A match between Finland and Sweden in Tampere, Finland, on May 15, 2023. (Photo by Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP) / Finland OUT (Photo by HEIKKI SAUKKOMAA/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images) /
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The Ottawa Senators have today announced the signing of Finnish defenceman Nikolas Matinpalo to a one-year entry-level contract.

Joining from Ässät of the Finnish SM-Liiga, 24-year-old defenceman Nikolas Matinpalo has signed a one-year entry-level deal with the Ottawa Senators after five years of playing professionally in his native country.

Matinpalo Joins the Ottawa Senators

Despite being undrafted in the NHL, Matinpalo has developed into a solid defenceman in his own country and has racked up 205 regular season appearances in Finland’s top league, having also played for Ilves earlier in his career.

This season saw him take a small leap in his offensive production, registering seven goals and 16 total points in 51 regular season games, good for second on the team for defencemen.

Matinpalo’s growth has also seen him receive international recognition, featuring for Team Finland in the recent IIHF World Championships, scoring a goal and registering two assists through seven games with his country.

The signing of the 6-foot-3, 207lbs right-shot defenceman is the second foray into the European market for general manager Pierre Dorion, who also signed Czech forward Jiri Smejkal from Oskarshamn IK of the Swedish Hockey League earlier this off-season.

"“He took a big step this past season in improving his overall game in a short period of time. He has size, reach and an active stick. He’s also a very good puck mover who competes and plays with urgency which has helped him become a reliable defender.” – Pierre Dorion"

NHL teams are recognising the value of scouring European leagues more closely to discover potential talents that may have taken longer to truly develop or flourish, and had otherwise been overlooked at 18/19 years old.

Matinpalo will likely compete for top playing minutes for the Belleville Senators at the start of next season, unless he is able to impress enough to take over a bottom six role from one of the team’s existing players, but he could find himself earning NHL minutes regardless of where he starts.

However, with veterans such as Nick Holden and Travis Hamonic unrestricted free agents, there is the potential for Matinpalo to claim a spot on the NHL roster if Dorion opts to use his available cap space to address other areas of the roster – including Alex DeBrincat and goaltending specifically.

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It is still very early in the off-season, so there are plenty more moves for the Ottawa Senators to make between now and the draft, and even free agency on July 1st, but Dorion’s proactiveness shows a determination to truly tip the team into being a playoff contender once again.