Two former NHLers won’t be testing the North American market this summer. The ZSC Lions, the defending champions of the Swiss NLA, announced today that veteran defenseman Kevin Klein has signed an extension with the team and talented free agent forward Roman Cervenka has agreed to join the club. Both players are coming off strong seasons and further strengthen a championship roster that will also return top scorer Fredrik Pettersson and other former NHLers Drew Shore, Robert Nilsson, and Roman Wick next season.
Klein, 33, will return for a second season with the Lions after leaving North America last off-season with 12 NHL seasons under his belt between the Nashville Predators and New York Rangers. Known more for his conservative defensive play in the NHL, Klein impressed in his first season in the NLA with 22 points in 45 games to go along with his typical shutdown game in his own end. Klein was a force on the ice in the regular season, leading the team in penalty minutes and holding down the defensive zone on the team’s first pair. However, it was the postseason that really exemplified Klein’s ability, as he led the team with a +12 rating and trailed only Pettersson with 12 points on the team’s run to the title. Given that exclamation point on the year, it is no surprise that ZSC wanted to re-sign Klein this off-season. It is possible he would have gotten some looks in the NHL after a rebound year in Switzerland.
The rich get even richer though with the Lions’ addition of Cervenka. The 32-year-old has had a legendary hockey career overseas, even if his NHL experiment with the Calgary Flames in 2012-13 didn’t go so well. Cervenka finished his third straight season and the sixth of his career with a better than point-per-game pace in 2017-18. Although injuries limited him to just 32 regular season games with HC Fribourg-Gotteron, Cervenka nevertheless led the team with 37 points and added another team-best five points in the playoffs. In fact, Cervenka led the NLA in points per game among players with at least 25 games played. When healthy, the Czech center is a proven winner who has produced similar results in the NLA, KHL, and Czech League and on the international stage. A smart, two-way pivot who is an excellent play-maker, Cervenka likely would have drawn at least some interest among NHL teams if he had wanted to test the waters of free agency. Instead, he makes ZSC a formidable opponent in the NLA next season as they look to defend their title.