After a tumultuous 2022-23 season, Latvian winger Rudolfs Balcers is taking his services overseas. The 26-year-old has signed a one-year contract with ZSC Lions of the NL, Switzerland’s top men’s league.
Balcers was somewhat of a surprise entry to the unrestricted free-agent market in 2022. After scoring 11 goals and 23 points in 61 games for the San Jose Sharks, the team opted not to issue him a qualifying offer after acquiring him twice – once at the 2015 NHL Draft and again six years later on the waiver wire after trading him to the Ottawa Senators in the Erik Karlsson deal.
Balcers then signed with the Florida Panthers last summer, where he posted four points in 14 games before again being placed on waivers. The Tampa Bay Lightning took a chance on him, bringing him across the state, but he played in just three games before sustaining an upper-body injury that kept him out for more than six weeks. When he was healthy, he was waived again, cleared, and scored 15 points in 36 games down the stretch with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.
It was obviously a trying season for Balcers, even in the minors, where he’d broken the point-per-game threshold while a member of the Senators organization in 2019-20. An NHL return doesn’t seem out of the question down the line, but he’ll try and get his production back on track in Europe.