Detroit Red Wings sign European veteran goalie, still need someone for NHL job

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Red Wings announced they’ve signed goaltender Jussi Olkinuora, who backstopped Finland to the gold medal at the 2022 World Championship and was part of the team that captured gold at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Olkinuora was signed to a one-year deal worth $750,000. He’s 31, never drafted, has never played in the NHL and projects to play with the Grand Rapids Griffins, likely forming a tandem with 2021 first-round pick Sebastian Cossa. Cossa projects to turn pro after his 2021-22 season ends. He led his Edmonton Oil Kings to the Western Hockey League title and the Memorial Cup. The four-team tournament begins Monday in Saint John, New Brunswick, and also features OHL champ Hamilton, QMJHL champ Shawinigan and host Saint John. In the round-robin stage, Cossa and the Oil Kings face Hamilton on Tuesday, followed by Saint John on Wednesday and Hamilton on June 24.

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The Wings need a goaltender to form a tandem in Detroit. Olkinuora (6 feet 2, 200 pounds) starred at the World Championship, playing eight games and posting a .917 save percentage and 1.11 goals-against average, but his pro career has been forced in the KHL and his native Finland. He tried to get his career going in the U.S., playing collegiately for Denver and then spending three seasons playing in minor leagues before returning to Finland.

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The Wings took a look at Swedish goaltender Magnus Hellberg late in the season. He spent a couple weeks practicing with the team and won his only appearance, in the season finale in New Jersey on April 29. Hellberg wants to play in the NHL, but he has only made five career NHL appearances. The Wings need a proven NHL veteran to help Nedeljkovic, who buckled in the second half last season as a lack of depth forced the Wings to rely heavily on him. The free agent market (which begins July 13) could yield multiple options. Port Huron’s Jack Campbell (6-3, 207) took the Toronto Maple Leafs to Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs after playing 49 regular-season games; he’s 30, has played 135 NHL games and is coming off a $1.65 million contract. Casey DeSmith (6-0, 181) is 30, has played 96 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins over the past four seasons and is coming off a contract with a $1.25 million salary cap hit. Darcy Kuemper (6-5, 215) is 32 and has 299 career games to his credit and has been key to the Colorado’s Avalanche’s path to the Stanley Cup Final. He’s finishing up a two-year, $9 million contract. 

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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