It happened with the last shortened NHL season and it looks like it is happening again. There is going to be a player shortage in the market after all the NHL players have returned to their NHL teams. There are already reports circulating that AHL teams are scrambling to fill their rosters after their NHL players have left. The same can be expected once the last NHLers leave the KHL that the Russian behemoth league will start signing up top talents from other European leagues, further speeding up the snowball effect.
The challenge for European teams is that the IIHF transfer window closes on the 31st of January, so there is a lot of work to do to find a suitable replacement to bring in to plug holes left by locked out NHL players. As a UK based player agent from 9Hockey Management, Gareth Chalmers said on Twitter “I think a lot of European teams may struggle to replace departing NHLers, not in terms of quality but with an actual body.” Chlamers also added that he knows of teams that have been looking for import players for up to three months.
In Finland, there has been talk that the KHL would be extending offers to some of the top Finnish players and that teams are looking to accept these offers due to the vast financial gains to be made in terms of compensation. The first move was seen today, when Espoo Blues, gave a green light to Teemu Ramsted’s move to SKA St.Petersburgh. Ramsted was one of Blues’ key players after scoring 5+29 points in 39 games. The centre was also part of Finland’s Euro Hockey Tour roster where he played under the SKA head coach, Jukka Jalonen.
With the lockout really messing up the markets there are undoubtedly more hockey jobs available now, but there might not be high calibre players on the market that would be able to fill the roles that are being offered. For example an Italian Serie A2 team (second league in Italy) was looking for players with significant SM-liiga, NHL or KHL experience. The demand surely is high, but I can’t see anyone in a current higher league team make the change to Italian second tier hockey.
With AHL teams looking to bolster their teams, they will likely call up players from the ECHL, who in turn will be looking at the lower rings of professional hockey to fill in gaps made by the AHL. In the KHL, the net is cast into Europe, with Finland being a good candidate for player recruitment. The Finnish SM-Liiga teams ideally would like to have import players, but at the same time, they are looking for quality impact players, which can be hard to find. The other option for teams in Europe is to replace departed players with their top junior talents and try and hurry along their player development, a move which can be risky but can also yield high returns.
So not only is the NHL gearing up for a start, but that doesn’t mean that the European teams are any less busy. The European hockey market could see some puzzling moves (as seen by Rauman Lukko in signing Josef Straka) or some great last minute finds. As said, the transfer deadline for European teams is on the 31st of January when all ITC registrations closes, so busy days ahead for team GMs as well as player agents.
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