Former NHLers, including a few 2018 free agents, continue to pop up in leagues around the globe and another has now signed in an nontraditional landing spot. Kyle Baun has signed with the Belfast Giants of the Elite Ice Hockey League, the team announced today. The EIHL is the pro league of the United Kingdom, with the Giants as the token Northern Ireland team.
Baun, 26, was a Group 6 unrestricted free agent this summer after bouncing around between several teams that past couple of seasons. The former Colgate University star signed with the Chicago Blackhawks out of college in 2015 and even suited up for five games with the team early on in his pro career. While Baun was later relegated to full-time AHL play for the next season and a half, he nevertheless signed a two-year extension with Chicago in 2016. However, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens before the start of that second year, 2017-18, in a one-for-one swap for Andreas Martinsen. The Canadiens then flipped Baun to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline alongside Tomas Plekanec. Despite the apparent demand for his services as a depth player, Baun has not seen any NHL action since his early days with Chicago. Now, it appears he couldn’t even find a two-way contract in North America.
By signing in the EIHL, Baun stands a good chance of becoming one of the league’s top players. A big right winger with a scoring touch, Baun was a good all-around player in the college and minor league ranks and should be able to elevate his game even further against lesser talent in the UK. He also joins a team that has focused in on North American talent this off-season; Belfast also announced that they had signed AHLer Francis Beauvillier today and just last week added veteran forward and long-time Carolina Hurricane Patrick Dwyer.
The Giants also have the honor of being the last pro team that TheoFleury suited up for, back in 2005-06. The EIHL has hosted some former NHLers from time-to-time since it was founded in 2003, but Baun and company are a sign of greater interest in playing in the United Kingdom. The selection of Liam Kirk, the first homegrown British player to be picked in the NHL Draft, has definitely piqued some interest in the league and Baun could now become a poster boy for the movement.