Eeli Tolvanen is being courted to sign his entry-level contract by the Nashville Predators.
"We've been notified that [Tolvanen's] contract with Jokerit has been terminated, and the team is beginning the process of trying to sign him to a contract and bring him over to join the team," the Predators said Tuesday in a statement.
The contract with Jokerit, his team in the Kontinental Hockey League for the 2017-18 season, was terminated after the first season. Jokerit was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs Saturday.
Tolvanen, an 18-year-old forward, was Nashville's first-round pick (No. 30) in the 2017 NHL Draft. He is considered one of the best prospects not playing in the NHL. Nashville can offer Tolvanen a three-year, entry-level contract with a maximum salary of $925,000 per season, according to the NHL collective bargaining agreement.
Nashville leads Tampa Bay Lightning by one point in the race for the Presidents' Trophy and has a five-point lead on the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the Central Division. The Predators, who have clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, have seven games remaining.
Tolvanen had 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists) with Jokerit this season. The 36 points were the most by an under-20 player in KHL history, breaking the mark of 32 held by Evgeny Kuznetsov, now with the Washington Capitals, in 2010-11. Tolvanen had seven points (six goals, one assist) in 11 playoff games; he tied Olli Palola for the team lead in goals and points during the playoffs.
"He's had a great year; he was playing in the KHL," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said Tuesday. "To produce the way he did offensively, that's a good hockey league with good players, and for him to go in at that age and do what he did is a really good year. His Olympics were excellent, and his run in the playoffs was impressive as well.
"It's a different game over here. It's a smaller rink. It is the best players in the world that are on the ice that you're playing against, and that always makes it a little bit difficult, but when that time does come we'll be excited to have him as part of our team."
Tolvanen had nine points (three goals, six assists) for Finland in five games at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics in February; he finished tied for second in scoring for the tournament with Kirill Karpizov of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who played one more game. Nikita Gusev of OAR led the tournament with 12 points.