It’s a busy day across the hockey world, with a group of first-round NHL playoff series set to begin tonight and a few European leagues playing finals games. In the NHL, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are beginning what is likely to be a heated series between two rivals, while the Seattle Kraken are making their playoff debut in a game against the Colorado Avalanche — with former Colorado netminder Philipp Grubauer in the crease.
In Europe, Djurgarden defeated MoDo in a significant matchup in their battle for promotion to the top-tier SHL, while in Germany ERC Ingolstadt made a crucial late push to defeat EHC Red Bull Munchen and avoid falling into a 3-0 hole in the DEL finals. In Austria, HC Bolzano managed a 4-3 victory over Red Bull Salzburg to force a deciding seventh game in the ICEHL’s finals. As fans all around the world enjoy the important games on the schedule today, many offseason moves are being made by teams whose seasons have ended. We’ll keep track of those transactions here.
- 739-game NHL veteran Justin Abdelkader will not return to EV Zug, the team he played 2022-23 for, according to a team social media post. The 36-year-old played 24 games in his second tour with Zug, having skated nine games for them before in 2020-21. Abdelkader scored two goals and five points this season and added three points in five playoff games. Without a team at the moment for next season, it doesn’t seem out of the question that Abdelkader could end up retiring, though it’s also certainly possible that he decides to continue his pro career. In any case, should Abdelkader choose to keep playing his next season won’t be with EV Zug.
- Brynas IF has secured a major contract extension for their quest to be promoted back to the SHL. The team announced a three-year contract for former NHLer Johan Larsson, who ranked second among forwards in team scoring with 31 points in 45 games. (Former Toronto Maple Leaf Dmytro Timashov led the team with 33 points) It’s a significant signing for Brynas, who were relegated just recently. It’s also interesting to note that Larsson will be playing second-division hockey in Sweden just a year after he was traded to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a third-round pick. A third-round pick is what the Carolina Hurricanes paid this deadline to acquire Shayne Gostisbehere, a 40-point NHL defenseman, highlighting how recently the 30-year-old Larsson was viewed as a valuable NHL rental. It also illustrates how loyal Larsson seems to be to the club he won the Swedish championship with in 2011-12, as he’s willing to play in his country’s second tier of hockey and likely forgo greater outside offers in order to help the Brynas earn promotion back to the SHL.
- Former top prospect David Rundblad is among the players who will not be returning to Karpat next season, per an announcement from the Liiga side. The 32-year-old, who is perhaps best known for bringing Vladimir Tarasenko to the St. Louis Blues and Kyle Turris to the Ottawa Senators via trade, had a solid first season in Finland after six seasons in the KHL. Rundblad scored 26 points in 60 games this season and helped Karpat reach the playoff qualifiers.
- Former New Jersey Devil Janne Kuokkanen is headed to Sweden to continue his pro career. The 24-year-old 2016 second-rounder made a strong impression in his return to European pro hockey, scoring 31 points in 42 games for Switzerland’s HC Fribourg-Gotteron. He’s a major addition for Malmo, who just barely staved off relegation to HockeyAllsvenskan this season by defeating Brynas.
- The KHL’s Ufa Salavat Yulayev have re-signed 29-year-old Sergei Shmelev to a two-year contract extension. Shmelev ranked 16th in the entire KHL in scoring this season, leading Ufa in points with 51. He showed chemistry with former San Jose Shark Sasha Chmelevski and now is rewarded with a contract extension with the hope of helping lead Ufa back to the KHL’s playoffs next season.
- Longtime KHL star and former Ottawa Senator Stephane Da Costa signed a two-year contract extension with the KHL’s Automobilist Yekaterinburg. The 33-year-old scored 20 goals and 56 points in 54 games this season, leading the team in scoring and to the playoffs. The three-time KHL All-Star last played in North America in 2013-14, when he scored 58 points in 56 games for the Binghamton Senators in the AHL.
- Defenseman Eero Teravainen, the brother of Carolina Hurricanes star Teuvo Teravainen, signed a contract extension with Liiga’ KooKoo Kouvola. The 24-year-old spent two seasons playing in North America for the USHL’s Lincoln Stars from 2016 to 2018 before heading back to his native Finland. He’s recently established himself as a regular in Finland’s top league, and helped KooKoo win the Liiga bronze medal last season.
- Ludvig Larsson, a solid middle-of-the-lineup scorer for Rogle BK, has signed a two-year contract to transfer to SHL rival Orebro. The 27-year-old spent the last two seasons with Rogle, scoring 15 goals this season and helping the team win the Champions Hockey League last year. The 27-year-old last played in North America in 2019-20, when he split time between the AHL’s Binghamton Devils and ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder.
- A former First-Team All-Star in Finland’s second division (Mestis) will join his fourth Liiga club in two seasons. Samuel Salonen, 23, scored 34 points in 29 games for Jokipojat Joensuu in 2020-21, earning him a chance in Liiga for the following season. The right winger scored seven points in 29 games for Tappara Tampere and played several games on loan for two other Liiga clubs: Lukko and JYP. He spent this season with JYP and scored just nine points in 40 games, paving the way for a transfer to Jukurit that was announced today.
- The SHL’s HV71 has signed a two-year contract with Olle Strandell, a standout defenseman for Mora IK in HockeyAllsvenskan this year. He scored 28 points in 51 games and helped bring Mora to the brink of the promotion finals before they were eliminated by MoDo. HV71 sign this deal hoping Strandell can help infuse some youthful energy into their blueline and bring them back to the SHL’s playoffs after finishing near the bottom of the standings this season.
- Daniel Fischbuch, a veteran of over 500 games at the top level of German hockey, is transferring after three seasons with Dusseldorf. The 29-year-old has signed a two-year deal to play for Adler Mannheim, who just recently lost to Ingolstadt in the DEL semifinals. Fischbuch scored 16 goals and 37 points for Dusseldorf this season and will join a strong Manneheim team that boasted several former NHLers this season, including Korbinian Holzer, Nigel Dawes, Joseph Cramarossa, and Jordan Szwarz.
- Switzerland’s HC Lugano signed point-per-game QMJHL overage Cole Cormier to an entry-level deal. Cormier scored 71 points in 66 games this season but was passed over in each NHL draft he was eligible for. Now, he’ll begin his professional career with Lugano, who ranked 10th in the Swiss National League this season.
- Former St. Louis Blues prospect Niklas Lundstrom will not return to HockeyAllsvenskan’s AIK for next season. The 30-year-old played in 38 combined regular-season and playoff games for the club, posting an .899 save percentage in the regular season and a grisly .873 mark in the playoffs. Lundstrom has spent the last two seasons with AIK, and before then he had a stop in Austria, struggled in 2020-21 as an SHL starter for Linkopings HC, and saw time in North America in the AHL and ECHL.
- Former Colorado Avalanche prospect Michael Clarke is transferring from the DEL’s Augsburg Panthers to the Straubing Tigers, per a team announcement. The 28-year-old 2012 fifth-rounder has played the last three season with Ausburg and the last five in the DEL, compiling a total of 71 points in 201 games. With this move, Clarke moves from one of the worst-performing teams in the top division of German hockey to one of the strongest, as Straubing placed fourth in the regular-season standings while Augsburg were on the brink of relegation in 14th.
- Hungary’s ICEHL team, Fehervar AV19, made two major moves today. First, they locked up starting netminder Olivier Roy (a 2009 Edmonton Oilers draft pick) to a contract extension. Roy posted a strong .918 save percentage and 2.32 goals-against-average in the regular season and a .909 in six playoff games. Before this year, Roy spent five seasons with Augsburg in the DEL. In their second major move, Fehervar brought defenseman Josh Atkinson back to the team after a year spent in Germany with the Bietigheim Steelers, who were the club relegated to the second-division DEL2. Atkinson spent 2021-22 in Hungary and posted 38 points in 44 regular-season games and an impressive 11 points in 13 playoff contests.