As the calendar turns to August, more and more clubs across the hockey world are putting the finishing touches on the roster they’ll bring into their training camps for next season. Most major European pro leagues begin in early to mid-September, including Liiga, the DEL, the Swiss NL, and the SHL. Liiga preseason actually begins on Friday, meaning we’re quickly reaching the point when the 2023-24 season truly begins overseas. As always, we’ll keep track of notable player movement in minor and foreign leagues here.
- 27-year-old defenseman Bobby Nardella has found success pretty much everywhere he’s played over the last decade, from being a star USHLer to a second-team All-American at Notre Dame to now a Calder Cup Champion in the AHL in just his fourth season of pro hockey. But despite his strong play in the AHL regular season with the Hershey Bears, the undersized left-shot blueliner hasn’t yet earned his first NHL game, and now he’s guaranteed that he won’t receive that chance at least until 2024-25. Nardella signed a one-year contract with HV71 in the SHL. Nardella heads to Jönköping with 47 games of SHL experience already under his belt, as he played there on loan during the COVID-19-impacted 2020-21 campaign. He led Djurgårdens IF in scoring with 33 points in 47 games and will likely be a key player next year for HV71.
- Like Nardella, Sami Lepistö played a key role as a defenseman during a Hershey Bears Calder Cup championship, scoring 42 points in 70 games during the team’s championship season in 2008-09. Unlike Nardella, Lepistö played in 14 career NHL games by the end of that season and the following season he broke into the NHL full-time with the Coyotes. Lepistö would ultimately play in 176 NHL games before embarking on a long and extremely successful career in Europe that would see him win two Olympic medals and be named to three consecutive KHL All-Star games. Today, Lepistö, 38, announced his retirement due to medical considerations, ending his storied career that saw him last play for the SCL Tigers in the Swiss NL, where he helped the club avoid relegation.
- A stunning goal from 32-year-old defenseman Miks Indrašis sent the home crowd in Riga into a frenzy earlier this summer, lifting Latvia to an upset victory over heavily-favored Sweden in the quarterfinals of the IIHF Men’s World Championships, one of the biggest wins in the history of Latvian hockey. Now, Indrašis is headed to the country he upset to continue his pro career. He’s signed a one-year contract with Brynäs IF in HockeyAllsvenskan, the second tier of Swedish hockey. Indrašis is a lanky six-foot-four blueliner who scored 29 points in 53 games for the DEL’s Schwenningen Wild Wings and is likely to play a regular role for Brynäs during what will be his first campaign playing in Scandinavia.
- 2007 Nashville Predators second-round pick and former ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs MVP Jeremy Smith has signed a three-year contract extension to remain with the KHL’s Kunlun Red Star through his age-36 season. The American netminder has played for Kunlun since 2019-20 and is the franchise’s all-time leader in wins and saves. Smith represented China at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and is coming off of a strong bounce-back season as Kunlun’s number-one goalie, posting an impressive .914 save percentage despite a grisly 10-24-2 overall record.
- Veteran DEL defenseman Jonas Müller, a regular representative of Germany in IIHF play, has signed an early four-year contract extension to remain with his club Eisbären Berlin. Although Berlin endured a difficult 2022-23 season, Müller ended his campaign on a highly positive note as he played a role in Germany taking home a silver medal at the 2023 IIHF Men’s World Championships. Müller also has a silver medal from the 2018 Winter Olympics and despite being just 27 years old already has over 400 DEL games on his resume and two league championships. Müller averaged the most nightly minutes of any Berlin player and this contract ensures he’ll be the team’s defensive centerpiece moving forward.
- Former Montreal Canadiens prospect Martin Réway finished his 2022-23 campaign on a high note, scoring 12 points in 13 playoff games for Slovakia’s HK Spisska Nova Ves. Per a social media announcement from the club, Réway has signed a contract for next season with HK 32 Liptovský Mikuláš. Réway, 28, was a 2013 fourth-round pick who starred in the QMJHL but only managed five games playing in the AHL for the Canadiens’ affiliate. Réway’s last few years have been among the most productive in his career and this signing with Liptovský Mikuláš will potentially help the club avoid relegation to the second tier of Slovak hockey.
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