Over the past few years, many NHL veterans have turned to the Swiss National League A when they could not find a home in the NHL. Mark Arcobello, Roman Cervenka, Drew Shore, and Dustin Jeffrey made up some of the NLA’s top players in 2016-17. Yet, thus far it has been a quiet off-season for the growing Swiss league. Only lesser-known North American pros such as Mason Raymond and Joel Vermin have made the jump overseas, instead of the regular influx of NHL veterans like in recent years.
That is, until now. EV Zug, fresh off an appearance in the NLA championship, announced this morning that they have signed NHL veteran Viktor Stalberg to a two-year deal. It has been rumored for some time that Stalberg, ranked 45th in PHR’s Top 50 Free Agents, was looking into NLA offers, but after playing well for the Ottawa Senators down the stretch and during their surprising playoff run this season, many thought he would eventually receive a suitable NHL offer instead. Perhaps that wasn’t the case, as the Swedish winger has signed on for two years in the NLA, signalling that he is taking a break from the NHL, at least for a while.
Stalberg, 31, has been committed to North American hockey for some time now and it is a bit strange to see him leave after his stock rose at the end of the 2016-17 season. Stalberg originally left home to play at the University of Vermont in 2006, the same year he had been drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Stalberg went on to be a key forward for the Chicago Blackhawks for a few years, posting a 20-goal season and career-high 43 points with the team in 2011-12 and helping out the Stanley Cup-winning squad in 2012-13. Since leaving Chicago, Stalberg has become more of a journeyman mercenary; a role player for teams for short periods of time. In the past three years, he has played for the Nashville Predators and their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, the New York Rangers, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Senators. In those three seasons, Stalberg registered only 46 points combined, which may have lent itself to the seemingly low level of interest from other teams. Stalberg may have lost his NHL scoring touch, but he’s likely to rediscover it in the NLA. Stalberg is a great veteran addition for HV Zug, and with more than a few years of hockey left in him, Stalberg’s NHL days may not be completely over yet either.