13 European Free Agents Who Could Get NHL Deals

Every summer NHL teams bring over free agents from Europe, hoping to find a player that was passed over, or that player who was in the NHL system but wound up needing more time to develop before reaching their potential.

 

The results are mixed. You get players who have a marginal impact – Sergei Plotnikov – or don’t find their way into the NHL for any extended period of time – Michael Keranen. But there is also value to be found. Artemi Panarin is a huge success story this year. And that’s not a rare occurrence. The Wild found Niklas Backstrom, their all-time wins leader, as an un-drafted free agent in Finland, and Sergei Bobrovsky was an un-drafted free agent signing out of the KHL.

 

Here are 13 free agents from major European leagues, including the KHL, who could find themselves under contract with a NHL club next season.

 

1. Mantas Armalis, G, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

 

The 23-year-old goaltender/model was originally linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. It’s believed now that he’s heading to the San Jose Sharks. The Carolina Hurricanes have also been said to have interest.

 

Wherever he goes, it looks like Armalis is getting a gig with a NHL organization for next season. The 23-year-old Lithuanian posted a .918 save percentage in the SHL this season.

 

2. Evgenii Dadonov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

 

The former Panthers draft pick never managed to catch on in the NHL, despite some success in the AHL. After getting traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, Dadonov went back to Russia where he almost instantly found success.

 

Last year he put up 19 goals and 46 points through 53 games. He followed up that performance by scoring 15 goals in 22 playoff games, a KHL record for most postseason goals. This season, he upped the ante again, scoring 23 goals and 46 points in 59 games.

 

His continued success could garner some NHL interest. It’s easy to understand why.

 
 

7. Justin Pogge, G, Farjestad BK (SHL)

 

The former Toronto Maple Leafs prospect has had a lot of success through his four years playing in Europe. That culminated with an impressive .926 save percentage last season (third in the SHL) and a .922 this year (tied for second).

 

In a post by the Professional Hockey Players’ Association earlier in the season, it was suggested that Pogge is looking to get back into the NHL. Many players are, but he’s had some good numbers. If he found a deal, it might be a situation a little like that of Jussi Rynnas last year, where a little NHL time is offered, but the leash is short.

 
 

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8. Nikolai Prokhorkin, C, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)

 

The talented forward was a 2012 Los Angeles Kings draft pick. He was rumored to be a part of a trade proposal with the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline, but the deal fell apart over reported concerns on whether Prokhorkin would really come to North America.

 

Elliotte Friedman reports that “you can expect LA to divest itself” of Prokhorkin, and that once he’s a free agent, interest from Edmonton may crop up again. Friedman also notes that he believes “there’s other NHL interest, too.”

 
 

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Prokhorkin played eight games with the Manchester Monarchs back in 2012, but returned to the KHL shortly after. He’s been there ever since. The 22-year-old scored 19 goals and 36 points through 55 games this season.

 

There’s interest on the NHL side, but no guarantee there’s interest in coming to North American on the part of the player.

 
 

9. Daniel Pribyl, C, HC Sparta Praha (Czech Liiga)

 

The 6-foot-3 forward is young and skilled, and, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, is getting a lot of interest from NHL clubs.

 

He scored 45 points in 45 games this season for Prague. That’s part of how he’s generated interest from Calgary, Nashville and Pittsburgh, as well as at least three other teams that McKenzie doesn’t list.

 

Pribyl was a Canadiens draft pick once upon a time, but the team opted not to sign him, making him a free agent.

 

10. Alexander Radulov, RW, CSKA Moskva (KHL)

 

Radulov was recently linked with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a possible destination for the star forward to land in the NHL. There was also a report that there wasn’t any truth to the rumor. It’s become an annual Ross and Rachel situation with Radulov and the NHL.

 

He certainly has the talent to come back and make an impact in the NHL. However, there are many factors involved and we’ve been down this road a few times before. It’s possible, but don’t believe until the ink is drying.

 

11. Vadim Shipachyov, C, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

 

While no great sources have linked Shipachyov to a NHL club, he’s a name that comes up a lot. The 29-year-old has tremendous skill and has put up at least a point per game in the last two seasons, as well as in 22-game and 14-game playoff runs in those seasons.

 

12. Vladimir Sobotka, C, Avangard Omsk (KHL)

 
Vladimir Sobotka

Photo: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

After a contract dispute with the St. Louis Blues, Sobotka took his talents to the KHL, where he’s played for the last two seasons. The Blues have definitely missed him in the lineup. He provided reliable, possession-driving depth.

 

 

Sobotka has a one-month window each summer where he’s permitted to opt out of his KHL contract to find work in the NHL. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that “all indications” are that he will come back to St. Louis next season.

 

13. Nikita Zaitsev, D, CSKA Moskva (KHL)

 

This is another deal where it’s all done but the actual signing, according to Elliotte Friedman. Zaitsev is expected to be suiting up with the Toronto Maple Leafs next season. In fact, it’s become such a sure thing that he’s the reason that Radulov, his KHL teammate, has been linked to Toronto.

 

The 24-year-old has some offensive skill and is a smart player. He will get a good chance to make a mark in the NHL and prove he deserves regular time playing on a thin Toronto blue line.

 

2016 Lexus RX350 AWD Tested: Yep, It’s Still a Lexus

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Lexus gives itself credit for inventing this vehicle class-a luxury sport-utility based on a front-drive-sedan platform-and by association contributing to one of the most malleable of all vehicle classifications: the crossover. That was in 1998. Since then, in the rare moments when Lexus wasn’t celebrating annual sales-the RX crossover has sold at least 100,000 copies every year, about one-third of the brand’s annual total-it has been pondering ways to make the RX a little more masculine in character and a little more engaging at the wheel. READ MORE ››

Duncan Keith Gets Intent to Injure Match Penalty

The Chicago Blackhawks are entering uncharted territory Tuesday night. They have never played without both Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook since they entered the league in the 2005-06 season, according to Mark Potash.

 

Tuesday, with Seabrook out of the lineup due to illness, Keith took a match penalty early in the game against the Minnesota Wild.

 

Keith was given the match penalty for intent to injury after slashing Wild forward Charlie Coyle in the face. Coyle checked Keith to the ice, and lying on his back, Keith took a swing at Coyle, leaving his face bloodied.

 

Coyle briefly left the game, but returned after getting a little medical attention.

 

The match penalty carries an automatic one-game suspension, unless the NHL rescinds the suspension, but in this instance that’s unlikely. It wasn’t long after receiving the penalty that Chris Kuc reported that the NHL Department of Player Safety was reviewing the play.

 

Keith has been suspended twice in his career, including a high-sticking infraction that bears some resemblance to this play. That took place in 2013 when he slashed Jeff Carter in the chops.

 

The play may get Keith more than the one-game automatic suspension.

 

Here’s the play.

 
 

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Update:

 
 

Tonight’s NHL on NBC broadcast gave a slow motion glimpse of the slash that gets a little better look at it. See that below, courtesy of @MyRegularFace.

 

 
 

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Jimmy Vesey is Not Signing with the Predators

The Nashville Predators did everything they could to sign Jimmy Vesey, but it was apparently not enough.

 

Vesey and his agents notified the Predators Monday that he would be exercising his right to unrestricted free agency on Aug. 15.

 
 

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Nashville drafted Vesey in the third round (66th overall) at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

 

Vesey’s senior season at Harvard University ended Friday evening in a 4-1 loss to Boston College in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Division I Ice Hockey Tournament. In four seasons with the Crimson, Vesey totaled 144 points (80 goals, 64 assists) in 128 games, won two Walter Brown Awards for being the best player in New England and has been a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in the past two seasons.

 

It is fairly obvious as to why Vesey is the most highly touted college player turning pro.

 

A week ago, all signs pointed to him signing with the Predators once Harvard’s season ended. Even his father Jim, a scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs, wanted Vesey to sign with the Preds.

 

“Every indication was that he was going to sign with us,” Nashville general manager David Poile said. “His dad told me, [head coach] Peter Laviolette, [director of player development] Scott Nichol, [assistant general manager] Paul Fenton that his son was going to sign with us.

 

“And Jimmy, himself, told Fenton prior to the trade deadline, which was an important time for us because it was our last opportunity to change our team. We told him if he was going to sign with us, we were going to keep a position available for him. He told us he was going to sign with us.”

 

Vesey said in July: “When my season ends at Harvard, I would really like to sign [with Nashville] next spring and get some pro experience before heading into training camp [in 2016]. If the opportunity is right to sign here in Nashville, then it is going to be a no-brainer.”

 

Nashville provided the best option for Vesey. He could enter the lineup right away, be a part of the team’s playoff run and could burn a year off his entry-level deal in the process.

 

On Wednesday, however, things changed. Vesey and his agents told Poile that he was considering free agency. Poile requested a meeting with Vesey, his family and the agents in hopes of reinforcing the opportunity the Predators provided.

 

While there have been conversations, a meeting was never accommodated.

 

Though Vesey appears to be a pipe dream for the Predators at this point, Poile vows to keep pursuing him before he becomes a UFA.

 

If the Predators were able to sign Vesey for this season, the biggest question was if he could slide into the lineup right away? Nashville has a good thing going, being the best in the league since Feb. 12 with a 14-3-5 record. Adding Vesey this late into the season could have screwed up the current chemistry.

 
 

While this a tough pill for Nashville to swallow, they have a scary team entering the playoffs. There is no more distractions off the ice, and Poile can sit back and watch his team ride into the postseason.

 

“Vesey Watch” just got a lot more interesting for the other 29 teams in the league that would relish at the chance to sign him. The leading candidates for Vesey are the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Vesey, a native of North Reading, Mass., grew up a Bruins fan. As for the Leafs, he has ties with the team since his brother Nolan was drafted by the club in 2014 and his father is a scout.

 

May the most enticing team win.

 

Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow Colin on Twitter@FittsTHW, and e-mail him at 22fitts@gmail.com.