One of the more surprising departures to Europe last offseason was that of Sami Vatanen, the long-time NHL defenseman who left for Switzerland. Vatanen had played nearly 500 NHL games, had been a top-four option for years, and had only just turned 30 years old. Now, after a year with Geneve-Servette HC, he’s decided the non-NHL life suits him just fine. Vatanen has signed a two-year extension with the club, through the 2023-24 season.
That’s not all, as Geneve-Servette announced a couple of other high-profile deals. Valtteri Filppula, who also left behind an NHL career last offseason, has re-upped to play with Vatanen for another year. Filppula, 38, was dominant for the club this season, scoring 19 goals and 47 points in 48 games. He also served as captain for Finland at the Olympics and World Championships, two tournaments that Vatanen was also part of.
Linus Omark will join them as another name familiar to many NHL fans, though he has been gone for quite a while longer. The shootout magician spent last season in the SHL, but did play 2020-21 with Geneve-Servette, and should have no problem bringing his elite offensive ability back to the National League. The 35-year-old Omark played just 79 games in the NHL, before leaving for Europe in 2014.
Vatanen will still be the headline though, since he remains squarely in his productive years and was still a quality NHL player when he departed–even if injuries had kept him off the ice for the better part of a year. He showed just how productive he could be last season when he scored at a better than point-per-game rate as a defenseman in the NL. A two-year deal likely means any chance of his return to North America is gone, though that already may have been the case.