After announcing his retirement from the NHL last week, Kevin Klein has signed a one-year contract to play for the Zurich Lions of the Swiss NLA next season. Klein had one year remaining on his contract with the New York Rangers, but opted to retire and give up the $2.75MM instead of trying to work through his chronic injuries in the NHL.
He’ll do that instead in Switzerland, where he’ll join one of the top teams in the NLA for a year. Back in June, when it was first reported by Larry Brooks of the New York Post that Klein was considering retirement, continuing his career in Europe was mentioned. That didn’t seem like the plan last week when he announced his retirement, but at just 32 he likely has at least something left to give. The Lions are perhaps best known for their one-year housing of Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews while Marc Crawford was the head coach. While both of those men have moved on, the team remains a powerhouse in the league featuring former NHL players like David Rundblad and Robert Nilsson.
It’s interesting to see a player give up guaranteed money and a role in the NHL for the NLA, especially one like Klein who isn’t a fringe player. Playing 627 games in his career he has been a big part of the Rangers’ defensive group for several years, and before that a key cog for Nashville. The Rangers have made it clear they wanted to get younger this season, and perhaps they told Klein his role would be greatly diminished (or even buried in the minors) or maybe he just prefers the vistas of Europe over the metropolis of New York. He’s never been shy about his post-hockey plans—which include wood-working on his porch and opening a bed and breakfast with his wife—and this seems like just another outlet for those passions.