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Sami Vatanen Explains Why He Left the NHL

After signing overseas for the 2021-22 season, Sami Vatanen explained why despite offers, he chose to leave the NHL.

There was somewhat of a surprise in the NHL community last week, when it was announced that defenceman Sami Vatanen had inked a new, one-year contract with Geneve-Servette of the Swiss National League (NL). A player many believed would get another shot in the NHL, he’s leaving the league for another opportunity.

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While Vatanen’s play has dropped off considerably from what he was seen as years ago, he was still thought of by most as a serviceable NHL defenceman. Many were confused why he wasn’t receiving contract offers, however, the 30-year-old explained in an interview in Finland that he indeed was getting offers from NHL teams, just not the offers he was hoping for.

Sami Vatanen New Jersey Devils

“It was no big deal,” Vatanen said. “There were a few offers from the NHL, but I felt they just weren’t good enough.”

Vatanen made it clear that he holds no ill will towards the league he has played 473 career games in. In fact, he blames himself for how the situation unfolded.

“I waited all summer for something interesting to come along, but no. I haven’t had terribly good seasons under my belt, so I understand that. I didn’t stress about the whole thing. I was enjoying the summer and spending time with my family.”

He also stated that he has wanted to play overseas for some time, and did not rule out a return to the NHL, possibly as soon as the 2022-23 season. That will be determined by how he plays in the NL, as he was right when he said his seasons haven’t been very good. After being considered a bright up and comer with the Anaheim Ducks, his play dropped off in recent years, due to both injuries and a lack of foot speed. In 39 games last season split between the New Jersey Devils and the Dallas Stars, he managed just two goals and six points.

When he was at his best, Vatanen was a reliable two-way defender who was often used as a power-play quarterback due to his high skill level. Unfortunately, his offensive abilities seem to have vanished in recent seasons and certainly played a big part in why he wasn’t able to get the contract he was hoping for this offseason.

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