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Kristian Vesalainen and the decision to leave North America

The Finnish forward did what was best for him and is finding success.

Carolina Hurricanes v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images

As the Winnipeg Jets are in the midst of another break, the hockey world keeps on moving forward. One player who has done well in the Jets organization is Kristian Vesalainen. He is currently playing in the KHL and was the league’s Rookie of the Month for December.

There is no clear indication as to why Vesalainen left Winnipeg to go to the KHL. It could have been because he was homesick or because he did not want to be shuttled between the NHL and AHL all season. Not playing regularly is something that should bother a young player: Max Pacioretty famously said he would rather be a first liner in the AHL than a fourth liner in the NHL and he turned out alright.

Even without the full reason behind Vesalainen leaving North America for the KHL, it appears as though it was the right move. He is playing regularly at home in a competitive league. It might not be the development plan the Jets had hoped for, but it is working out well for Vesalainen.

There is also a bonus to him not being in North America: he has not played ten NHL games this season and therefore unless I am mistaken, his contract slides. This means the Jets will have him under contract for three years when they will need considerable internal cap relief from players within the organization who are out-performing their contracts. Vesalainen has the potential to be one of those players.

Vesalainen did what he thought was best for himself and returned to Finland to play in the KHL. It might turn out to be a major coup for the Jets long-term as they should get a better, more mature player next season while maintaining his entry-level contract for an extra season with no penalty.