Great yellow laces. Signals, it’s signals!
Every year, we see a few European players get signed to the NHL as free agents. Recently those players have included Anton Belov, who was snagged by the Edmonton Oilers; Damien Brunner, who inked a deal with the Detroit Red Wings before moving to New Jersey; Nikita Nikitin, who was traded from the St. Louis Blues to Columbus Blue Jackets during his rookie year; Raphael Diaz of the Montreal Canadiens; and New York Ranger Mats Zuccarello. These signings aren’t the conventional path to the NHL, but they aren’t a new one either.
Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Because teams give up very little cap space for an entry-level contract, European free agent signings aren’t high risk. The players could always be assigned to the minors. That said, some European stars who signed NHL contracts have failed in the bigs. Roman Cervenka, for example, returned to the KHL after just one year with the Calgary Flames.
One European player who might be sought after this year is Fedor Malykhin from Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg. At the age of 23, he’s going through a breakout year, carrying his team to a playoff spot.