HC Slovan Bratislava has made a pair of major additions to their roster as they gear up for the stretch run of the Slovakian Extraliga season. The former KHL club, now a powerhouse in the Tipos, lost a number of top young contributors when NHL and AHL training camps opened up, including forward Marian Studenic (NJD), defenseman Cam Lee (PIT), and goaltender Roman Durny (ANA). They also parted ways with former Buffalo Sabres netminder Andrei Makarov due to injury. Yet, the Andrej Meszaros-led team still sits in third place in the Extraliga, three points out of first with a game in hand. With a title in sight and holes to fill, Bratislava has turned to NHL veterans Anthony Peluso and Kristers Gudlevskis.
Peluso, 31, has signed a contract for the remainder of the 2020-21 season, the team announced. Peluso, who is making his first foray into European hockey, was undoubtedly hoping to find a new contract in North America. The former Winnipeg Jets regular, who has also been a member of the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, and most recently the Calgary Flames, has 148 NHL games and 312 AHL games to his credit over eight pro seasons. Last year, spent with the Bakersfield Condors, was the first season in that span in which Peluso did not play on an NHL contract. Nothing short of consistent, Peluso has been a low-scoring, but physically menacing presence up front at both levels and has managed to make a career out of his grinding style. However, by joining Bratislava he may finally have some opportunity to break free of that role and show that he still has some offensive ability left in him. While the team’s press release mentions the benefits of his physical brand of hockey, they also note that he was brought in as scoring depth up front. While Peluso’s aggressive style is surely taxing, he doesn’t have as much tread on his tires as many players with his age and seasons of experience. Perhaps if he can take on a top role with Bratislava, it will open doors for an NHL contract next season.
Gudlevskis, 28, has also signed with Slovan for the remainder of the 2020-21 season after beginning the year with Villacher SV of the IceHL. Although Gudlevskis has not played in North America since 2017-18, he has been linked to an NHL comeback in every off-season since. The former Tampa Bay Lightning backup, who finished his first NHL tenure under contract with the New York Islanders, has played at a high level since moving to Europe. Posting strong numbers first in the KHL and then last season in the German DEL, Gudlevskis has shown that he is a capable keeper and at his age still has plenty of quality years left in him. However, he has never been a workhorse which may be limiting his upside in the eyes of NHL suitors. Will he get that opportunity in Bratislava? With Makarov and Durny gone, the team was forced to bring in another goaltender to pair with Tyler Parks. The long-time ECHLer has actually been stellar so far this season, but Gudlevskis’ experience may make him the go-to guy down the stretch and in the postseason. If that occurs, perhaps he will finally be able to make the jump back to North America this off-season.