While the NHL trade market is swirling with rumors and the college free agent market has begun to heat up, there has been far more anticipation than actual transactions of late. Yet, in Europe there are teams already looking ahead to next season and players whose current campaigns are coming to an end. The KHL is already through the first round of the Gagarin Cup playoffs, while the SHL, Liiga, NLA, and others are in the stretch run. Keep up with these notable moves and more with today’s minor transactions:
- After a surprising first-round sweep at the hands of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the off-season has arrived earlier than hoped for perennial KHL contender Jokerit. The Finnish club hasn’t wasted any time with making their intentions for next season known either, quickly re-signing many of their core players who had been on expiring contracts – a group familiar to NHL fans. Jokerit has announced new contracts for four key players: two-year extensions for forward Markus Hannikainen, defenseman Alex Grant, and goaltender Anders Lindback and a one-year deal for forward Henri Ikonen. Hanikainen, 27, just completed his first season in the KHL after spending the past five years with the Columbus Blue Jackets (and briefly the Arizona Coyotes). Lindback, perhaps the most recognizable name, has been in Europe for three years now, but spent eight seasons in North America, totaling 130 NHL games with five different teams. Grant, known more for his status as top defender in the AHL in nearly 500 career games, has spent the past three years with Jokerit since leaving North America. Ikonen, 26, is a former Tampa Bay Lightning prospect who has played in the KHL for the past four years since his entry-level contract expired. With many of Jokerit’s other top players also signed beyond this season, including several more former NHLers, the team will return the bulk of a roster than finished fifth in the KHL’s Western Conference this year and hope that they can take another step forward in 2021-22.
- The season has also ended abruptly for the KHL’s Torpedo Nizhny Novogord, although not entirely unexpectedly as they were swept in the first round by the powerhouse Ak Bars Kazan, the Eastern Conference regular season champions. With his Russian campaign now over, the Toronto Maple Leafs have recalled young forward Semyon Der-Arguchintsev from his loan, writes Mike Davies of the Peterborough Examiner. Rather than rush SDA back from Russia to play in the AHL right away, the Leafs allowed him to complete his KHL season. The 20-year-old forward recorded six points in 17 games for Torpedo as a part-time player, and did play in all four playoff games but was held off the score sheet. He is now ready to return to more consistent, valued role with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, making his North American pro debut. A former standout with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, SDA is an impressive offensive talent who should be able to make an impact in the minors.
- Longtime Montreal Canadien David Desharnais is wrapping up his second season with HC Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss National League, his third season abroad since leaving the NHL. It’s been his best season in Europe by a wide margin, as Desharnais has recorded 36 points in 39 games and has established himself as a veteran leader for Fribourg-Gotteron, who currently sit in second place in the NLA standings with the postseason approaching. Despite this success and many years of NHL experience, the 34-year-old center does not seem too focused on attempting a return to North America. Instead, he has signed a one-year extension to stay in Switzerland, the club announced. Barring another point-per-game Swiss season next year (and even if then), this likely puts an official end to Desharnais’ NHL career.