While the NHL rumor mill has certainly been heating up of late, it may still be some time before major moves start to drop and calendar draws closer to the Expansion Draft, Entry Draft, and opening of free agency. In the meantime, there has still been a fairly consistent flow of minor moves out of the minor leagues and European ranks as the off-season has started early for some familiar names. Keep up with all of those transactions right here:
- A 2021 NHL Draft prospect has cemented his development path. Finnish defenseman Jimi Suomi, who many rankings believe could go as early as the third round next month, will likely be considered a project player anyway. That project will be monitored from afar, as Suomi has decided to stay in Finland. Liiga club TPS has announced a three-year contract with the young blue liner, who spent this past season with the U-20 team for Jokerit. The move is significant, as Suomi had been drafted into the USHL and was on NCAA radars. Instead, he will go the pro route and try to crack TPS’ Liiga roster next season.
- Another name staying in Europe, perhaps also to the surprise of some, is veteran forward Nick Shore. Shore, 28, has signed a one-year deal with the KHL’s Sibir Novosibirsk, the team announced. The younger brother of Carolina Hurricanes forward Drew Shore and older brother of Harvard forward Baker Shore, Nick is a veteran of nearly 300 NHL games. However, he played this past season in Europe, starting the year in Slovakia and then jumping to Switzerland when the NLA re-opened. He recorded 37 points in 27 games across the two leagues, one of the better offensive seasons of his pro career. It is unclear if Shore spent the year in Europe due to financial and convenience concerns due to the COVID pandemic or if there was simply no NHL interest. He has played in 63 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets the season prior, so it at least seemed as if he was still valued in North America. However, his early decision to sign in the KHL rather than test the NHL market could be indicative to the contrary.
- T.J. Brennan is another NHL veteran staying overseas. The journeyman defenseman left for Switzerland this season after four consecutive seasons in the AHL without any NHL action. He found success with HC Thurgau, recording 24 points in 22 games and leading the team to the playoffs. He will try again next season in Austria, signing a one-year contract with EC Salzburg of the IceHL. The team’s release notes his previous scoring success in the AHL and touts him as a major addition to the roster.
- Texas Stars free agent Derek Barach is leaving the AHL for Europe. The 26-year-old forward has signed with Liiga club Assat on a two-year deal. A productive college player at Mercyhurst, Barach is still trying to find his footing in the pros after stops with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters and the Stats this past season.