After years of trying to find his place in the NHL, former top prospect turned journeyman Kerby Rychel has decided to take his talents to Sweden. Orebro HK of the SHL announced today that Rychel has signed a one-year contract with the club. Rychel brings with him nearly 300 games worth of AHL experience, as well as 43 NHL games. The 19th overall pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013, Rychel entered the pro level with high expectations as both the son of respected former player and OHL executive Warren Rychel and as a player who had done serious damage on the score sheet at the junior level. Rychel looked to be on his way to becoming an established NHL player when he suited up for 32 games with Columbus in his second pro season, but a trade to Toronto – in exchange for current Blue Jackets defenseman Scott Harrington – altered his trajectory. Rychel never played a single game for the Maple Leafs, spending close to two full seasons with the AHL’s Marlies. He was then traded to the Montreal Canadiens at the tail end of the 2017-18 season as part of the package for rental Tomas Plekanec. Despite performing well in a brief showing with the Habs, Rychel was traded again last summer to the Calgary Flames for Hunter Shinkaruk. Even as he was enjoying the best per-game production of his AHL career with the Stockton Heat, Rychel earned just two appearances with the Flames and the team did not make him a qualifying offer earlier this summer. Putting a tumultuous NHL career behind him, Rychel will now try his hand at the SHL. Orebro struggled last season, finishing tenth out of 14 teams and will be glad to add an experienced talent like Rychel. Between he, fellow new addition Ryan Stoa, and returning top liner Shane Harper, Orebro should pack some more offensive punch next season.
- Given the lackluster NHL free agent market this summer, it’s no surprise that few veterans who had previously made the jump to Europe have been able to find a fit back in North America. Count defenseman Tobias Enstrom among that group. The 34-year-old has re-signed with his hometown team, MODO of the Swedish minor league Allsvenkan, the club announced. It is a new one-year deal for the captain, who returned to Sweden last off-season. A career member of the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise, Enstrom found himself without a home for the first time in 11 years last summer as a free agent without a market. He held out hope, waiting for an offer until late August, before opting to head home. In returning to MODO, the team he grew up playing for – albeit in the SHL at that time – Enstrom took on a leadership and also saw a spike in his production. MODO hopes that the strong play continues from their veteran ace, as the team looks to contend for promotion back to the SHL in the upcoming season.
- The quiet NHL free agent market has had an overwhelmingly positive effect on the European leagues, as few players left their respective clubs while talent continues to come over from North America. While Sweden has had a strong off-season in the import business, the winner thus far in terms of NHL additions is unsurprisingly the KHL, considered to be the best of the European leagues. Among the players who have signed in the KHL this off-season are forwards Sven Andrighetto, Ty Rattie, Nikita Soshnikov, Jori Lehtera, Peter Holland, and Lukas Sedlak, defensemen Andrej Sustr, Igor Ozhiganov, Bogdan Kiselevich, and Jakub Jerabek, and goaltender Harri Sateri. It’s a valuable influx of talent for a league that is seeking better competitive balance.