It’s a day of Game Sevens across the hockey world, with two such contests set to be played in the NHL and one completed in Europe. In the NHL, the defending champion Colorado Avalanche are facing the upstart Seattle Kraken, while the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins are looking to fend off a challenge from Matthew Tkachuk’s Florida Panthers.
In Europe, MoDo Hockey Ornskoldsvik earned promotion to the SHL with a Game Seven victory over last year’s relegated club, Djurgardens IF. Former Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Kristers Gudlevskis’ brilliant performance puts MoDo back in the SHL for the first time since 2015-16, and represents a significant achievement for the club after seven consecutive seasons in the second-tier HockeyAllsvenskan. Elsewhere in Europe, today is a major day for the KHL as many teams are announcing the expiry of contracts for soon-to-be free agents.
A few final seasons in Europe are wrapping up and most clubs in foreign and minor leagues are getting to work on their offseason business. We’ll keep track of any notable moves they make here.
- Former New Jersey Devils forward Nikita Gusev, a longtime star in the KHL, has mutually agreed with his club, SKA St. Petersburg, to terminate his contract and allow him to become a free agent. Gusev, 30, had an exceptional regular season in St. Petersburg, scoring 23 goals and 49 points in just 37 games played. Gusev returned to Russia in October 2021 after flaming out in the NHL, never quite able to recapture the success of his 44-point rookie season. Now a free agent, it could be possible that a return to North America is under consideration for the four-time KHL All-Star and Olympic Gold Medalist.
- 2011 12th overall pick and 175-game NHL veteran Ryan Murphy is among the players announced to be leaving KHL side Ufa Salavat Yulaev today. The 30-year-old’s 2022-23 season was a strong one, as he scored 17 points in 43 games and was selected to the KHL’s All-Star Game. Although Ufa were upset by Admiral Vladivostok in the first round of the playoffs, Murphy’s strong season opens the door for him to potentially earn a two-way NHL contract or AHL deal to return to North America. Former Buffalo Sabre Victor Antipin was also announced today to be departing Ufa, but seeing as he has been in the KHL for the past five seasons, it’s unlikely North America is in the cards for him.
- Former Arizona Coyotes top prospect Brandon Gormley’s contract with his KHL side HK Sochi has expired today, per a team announcement. The 31-year-old has had a difficult run of results since winning back-to-back Champions Hockey League titles with Frolunda HC. Sochi were the worst team in the KHL this season, and Gormley managed just 12 points and a -21 rating in 43 games played. He’ll now have free rein to seek a new opportunity as a free agent.
- Original Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft pick Teemu Pulkkinen’s contract with the KHL’s Traktor Chelyabinsk expired today. Pulkkinen played the last two seasons in Chelyabinsk and saw his production decline this year, from 22 goals in 2021-22 to 15 in this campaign. Pulkkinen, the 2010-11 Rookie of the Year in his native Finland’s Liiga, is nonetheless an accomplished scorer in minor and European pro leagues and should have interest from many clubs looking to add some scoring for next season.
- After signing former NHLer Remi Elie yesterday, the SHL’s Linkopings HC have made another big addition to their forward corps, inking former Philadelphia Flyer Taylor Leier to a two-year contract. The former WHL champion and AHL All-Star had a strong two-season run with the Tigers, totaling 39 goals and 101 points in 109 games there. Now, he’ll look to shoulder a similarly significant offensive workload as Linkoping attempts to climb the SHL standings.
- Alexander Sharov, the fourth-leading goal scorer in the KHL this past season, will not return to HC Sibir Novosibirsk for next season. The 27-year-old Moscow native emerged as one of the better wingers in the KHL this past season, and could now be looking to parlay his goal-scoring success into a lucrative contract with a higher-profile KHL club.
- Patrice Cormier, a former Winnipeg Jets center and former captain of their AHL affiliate has had his KHL contract with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg expire today. Cormier, 32, has twice finished the KHL’s most penalized player since signing in Kazakhstan in 2018, and now will have the chance to potentially return to North America or seek new opportunities in the KHL as a free agent.
- Arizona Coyotes 2022 43rd overall pick Julian Lutz could be nearing the signing of his entry-level contract, according to an announcement from his club Red Bull Munich. Per Red Bull Munich, talks are ongoing between the 19-year-old winger and the Coyotes, likely on plans for an entry-level deal and his playing in North America (likely with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners) next season. Lutz had a decent season for the eventual DEL champions, scoring eight points in 24 games. He also made Germany’s team for the 2023 World Junior Championships and registered two points in five games at the tournament.