Veteran NHL defenseman Tom Gilbert is on his way to Germany. After 11 seasons in the NHL, opportunities in North America have dried up for the 34-year-old, who will now take his talents across the Atlantic to the Deutsche Liga (DEL). The Nuremberg Ice Tigers, fresh off a strong 2016-17 season and run to the league semifinals, announced a one-year-deal with Gilbert yesterday, which is easily the biggest free agent acquisition in the DEL this off-season. Nuremberg immediately becomes the favorite in the DEL this season, as they already roster four of the league’s leading scorers from 2016-17, including veteran NHLer Steven Reinprecht, and the league’s top goaltender, Andreas Jenike, and will sure up a weak defense that cost them last season by adding Gilbert and his 655 games of NHL experience to the mix. Gilbert is far removed from his early days as a high-scoring blue liner for the Edmonton Oilers, but can still play reliable defense and was thought of as enough of an asset that the Washington Capitals traded for him from the Los Angeles Kings this February as a depth option down the stretch and in the playoffs. Gilbert when on to play very well for the AHL’s Hersey Bears in the latter half of the season, and should be set to dominate lesser competition in the DEL in 2017-18.
- Despite signing his entry-level deal with the Boston Bruins back in April and putting on a good showing at the team’s development camp recently, Joona Koppanen will honor his contract with Ilves of the Liiga and return to Finland for the 2016-17 season via loan. Koppanen is yet another Don Sweeney draft pick that appears poised to outplay his draft slot. A fifth-round pick of the Bruins in 2016, part of the same draft class as Charlie McAvoy, Trent Frederic, and Ryan Lindgren, who all exceeded expectations this past year, Koppanen is no different. The 6’5″ Finn stands tall, but skates extremely well for a player of his size. He also has positional versatility and strong hockey intelligence to go along with good scoring ability. Koppanen scored 54 points in 38 games in the Jr. Liiga last year and turned down NCAA offers to pursue his pro dreams sooner. He’ll get that chance with Ilves in 2017-18 and another big season could make him a surprise challenger for a roster spot in Boston come 2018-19.
- Despite ample overseas offers and rumors of such signings, veteran AHLer Carter Camper has decided to stay stateside. The 29-year-old signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Monsters yesterday and will look to continue his long run of AHL domination. An undrafted, undersized forward out of Miami University in 2011, Camper signed on with the Boston Bruins and proceeded to post big numbers with the AHL’s Providence Bruins for three years, even earning a brief call-up to the NHL. Camper was traded away to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2014, and has since found one-year, two-way contracts each summer with Ottawa Senators, Washington Capitals and, most recently, the New Jersey Devils. This is the first time Camper has had to settle for an AHL deal, as his streak of about or above 50-point AHL seasons has been trending towards 30-points for the past few years. Camper’s days as an NHL prospect are likely over, but don’t be surprised if the diminutive scorer is a Team USA candidate for the 2018 Olympics and back on a two-way NHL contract next season.