While the Anaheim Ducks finalized an entry-level contract with newest first-round pick Isac Lundestrom yesterday, don’t expect to see him donning a Ducks jersey right away. Beat writer Eric Stephens reports that Lundestrom is expected to remain in Sweden for at least one more year to finish out his contract with the SHL’s Lulea. This would line up with the specifics of Lundestrom’s contract, which contains a European Assignment Clause for next season. After that, Lundestrom’s future is more of a mystery, but the high-ceiling center is still relatively raw and likely a few seasons away from an NHL debut.
- Another prospect in limbo between the NHL and Europe is the Winnipeg Jets’ 2017 first-rounder, Kristian Vesalainen. The 19-year-old power forward had a breakout campaign last year, recording 43 point in 49 games between HPK and Karpat of the Liiga, the top pro league in his native Finland, and impressing at the World Juniors. However, Vesalainen’s contract in Finlad has expired and he remains an unsigned – and highly sought-after – free agent across the continent, having now spent time in both Sweden and Finland. Yet, Vesalainen may be holding out for a spot with the Jets this season. The budding young star has yet to sign his entry-level contract, but may be hoping that he can somehow work his way in to a loaded forward corps in Winnipeg. Otherwise, one would think that he would have already signed with another team in Europe.
- Speaking of European free agents, Vesalainen is not the only recognizable name still available who played overseas last season. After a point-per-game season with SC Bern of the Swiss NLA, Mason Raymond still remains unsigned, perhaps hoping for NHL interest. Raymond, offensive defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, and capable two-way forward Nick Spaling highlight NLA players awaiting jobs, while Brandon Gormley and Jonathon Blum are puck-moving defenders still looking for a contract after playing in the SHL and KHL respectively last year. In Finland, veteran defenseman Henrik Tallinder has remained productive well into his late thirties but is still looking for another shot, while consistent forward Jesse Saarinen, a top 20 per-game scorer in the Liiga, also remains unemployed.
- Joining the list of European free agents today is long-time NHL checking forward Daniel Paille. Paille, 34, spent 11 years with the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers before departing for Sweden in 2016. Paille signed a three-year deal with Brynas IF of the SHL and played well in his first season. However, injuries limited the two-way forward to just 14 games last season and Brynas decided to move on. The team announced today that both they and Paille have mutually agreed to terminate the final year of the contract, allowing Brynas to get out from under the contract and allowing Paille to focus on getting healthy. At this point, it is unclear if Paille will be actively looking for work this season or if he is leaning toward taking the year off or perhaps hanging up the skates for good.