Influx Of Foreign Talent A Trend In 2018 Off-Season

Posted by at 17 August, at 23 : 22 PM Print

While the NHL free agent market remains flush with talented veteran players, some now beginning to depart for Europe without any leads around the league, NHL teams have quietly imported a fair amount of foreign talent this off-season. While few of these players are stars or even surefire regulars at the NHL level, the fact remains that those on two-way deals slated for depth roles are nevertheless taking those jobs from the current remnants of the market, who at this point would gladly take an AHL assignment with upside. Teams clearly have felt this off-season that taking a chance on a promising foreign player was a better use of a contract than recycling aging domestic veterans. A total of 36 players who played in Europe last season are now headed to North America, where they will suit up for 24 different organizations – showing the popularity of importing talent this off-season. Here are the foreign free agent signings this summer:

Ilya Lyubushkin  (Arizona Coyotes)
David Ullstrom  (Arizona Coyotes)
Martin Bakos  (Boston Bruins)
Lawrence Pilut  (Buffalo Sabres)
Yasin Ehliz  (Calgary Flames)
Marcus Hogstrom  (Calgary Flames)
Saku Maenalanen  (Carolina Hurricanes)
Dominik Kahun  (Chicago Blackhawks)
Kevin Lankinen  (Chicago Blackhawks)
Jacob Nilsson  (Chicago Blackhawks)
Pavel Francouz  (Colorado Avalanche)
Valeri Nichushkin  (Dallas Stars)*
Patrik Rybar  (Detroit Red Wings)
Mikko Koskinen  (Edmonton Oilers)
Joel Persson  (Edmonton Oilers)
Bogdan Kiselevich  (Florida Panthers)
Ilya Kovalchuk  (Los Angeles Kings)
Eric Martinsson  (Minnesota Wild)
Michal Moravcik  (Montreal Canadiens)
David Sklenicka  (Montreal Canadiens)
Carl Persson  (Nashville Predators)
Filip Pyrochta  (Nashville Predators)
Miroslav Svoboda  (Nashville Predators)
Egor Yakovlev  (New Jersey Devils)
Jan Kovar  (New York Islanders)
Yannick Rathgeb  (New York Islanders)
Michael Lindqvist  (New York Rangers)
Ville Meskanen  (New York Rangers)
Juuso Riikola  (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Lukas Radil  (San Jose Sharks)
Antti Suomela  (San Jose Sharks)
Par Lindholm  (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Igor Ozhiganov  (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Brooks Macek  (Vegas Golden Knights)
Juuso Ikonen  (Washington Capitals)
Maximilian Kammerer  (Washington Capitals)
Dennis Everberg  (Winnipeg Jets)

While the obvious highlight of this list is the return of Kovalchuk, inking a substantial deal with the L.A. Kings, the rest are far more than just AHL placeholders. Nichushkin, albeit not a true free agent signing since his rights never left the Stars, is back in Dallas and looking to make an impact. Koskinen is set to be the primary backup to Cam Talbot  in Edmonton and, while his role was muddied somewhat by the acquisition of Philipp Grubauer , Francouz is sure to see some action in net with Colorado. Kovar was brought in to be a starter in New York, while Ullstrom – a former Islander – will push for a roster spot with Arizona. After a couple of years abroad, Everberg is back in the league and hoping to find a role in Winnipeg. If Simon Despres , on a PTO with the Montreal Canadiens, earns a contract, he could make a difference as well.

Several more of these players could wind up winning spots in training camp battles, while even more will earn call-ups throughout the year. It is an extensive list and each and every name bears watching as they begin or continue their North American pro careers. Both the risk and upside of bringing over fresh, foreign talent versus sticking with experienced yet stagnant veterans is apparent. For some teams these gambles will fail, while others may find a diamond in the rough.


Detroit Red Wings

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