After more than a decade playing hockey in North America and over 500 NHL games, veteran defenseman Patrik Nemeth has made the choice to sign in Switzerland and continue his pro career overseas.
According to a team announcement, he’s signed a two-year deal with SC Bern of the Swiss National League, joining other former NHLers Julius Honka, Sven Baertschi, Martin Frk, Oscar Lindberg, Colton Sceviour, and Dominik Kahun playing for the 16-time NL champions.
This move concludes a steep decline in NHL value for Nemeth, who only two years ago today signed a three-year, $2.5MM AAV contract with the New York Rangers as an unrestricted free agent.
The hope was that Nemeth could anchor the Rangers’ bottom-pairing and be the sort of stay-at-home left-shot defenseman who could help prized prospect Nils Lundkvist, a young right-shot blueliner and fellow Swede, adjust to the NHL.
Nemeth struggled badly in New York, though, ultimately spending most of the team’s run to the Eastern Conference Final as a healthy scratch.
He was subsequently traded to the Arizona Coyotes with the Rangers attaching two second-rounders in order to incentivize Arizona to take on Nemeth’s deal. The fact that the Rangers were willing to sacrifice two genuinely valuable draft picks just to be rid of Nemeth illustrates how far his value had fallen after just one season, and unfortunately, that decline would continue into his Coyotes tenure.
The fact that Arizona spent last season short on established defensive talent meant that Nemeth would play a larger role for the Coyotes than he did in New York. Nemeth averaged nearly 18 minutes of ice time per night, up from 16:38 with the Rangers, and he was head coach André Tourigny’s most frequently-used penalty killer averaging 3:15 per night short-handed.
Despite boasting an above-average goalie in Karel Vejmelka, though, the Coyotes had the sixth-worst penalty kill in the NHL, indicating that Nemeth was likely overmatched as a team’s short-handed minutes-eater.
The Coyotes ultimately opted to buy out Nemeth rather than retain him for the final year of his deal, giving them significant cap savings this upcoming season at a $1.167MM cost for 2024-25.
Seeing as he’s still just 31 years old, played a relatively significant role last season, offers over 500 games of NHL experience, and offers the type of size (six-foot-four, 230 pounds) NHL teams covet, it’s somewhat surprising Nemeth opted to sign in Switzerland rather than hold out for an NHL contract.
But seeing as he might be in two-way deal territory, opting for some more security and stability to play in Switzerland (which is also closer to home for Nemeth, who hails from Stockholm) is a completely understandable choice.
Now Nemeth, who played significant minutes representing Sweden at the 2023 IIHF Men’s World Championships, will likely play a significant role on Bern’s blueline and look to lead the team on a bounce-back season after they finished eighth out of 14 in the regular-season standings in 2022-23.
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