Earlier this week in The Hockey News' feature "Eye on Europe," Risto Pakarinen reported that Sweden and the NHL have finalized a transfer agreement. It is apparently very similar to the agreement Finland and the NHL signed last summer, where if an NHL team signs a player still under contract with a team in the country, that team will receive $225,000 in compensation. What does all this mean for the Islanders?
First lets look at those players that are Islanders property (Not all can truly be considered prospects) in Sweden and their contract situation. For their contracts, I take the lengths and yearly value from eliteprospects.com, a site I trust for this information. I also give my opinion on whether or not the player will stay in Sweden or come State-side next year.
The Islanders currently have 4 players affected by the agreement, Emil Axelsson, Anders Nilsson, Stefan Ridderwall and David Ullstrom.
Emil Axelsson - 7th Round, 210 overall 2004 - Axelsson will probably stay in Sweden for the remainder of his career. At 24 having only played 1 game in the Elitserien, the big defender really doesn't seem to have much upside at this point. He is currenlty under contract for one more year at Allsvenskan outfit Orebro. Verdict: Staying in Sweden
Anders Nilsson - 3rd Round, 62 overall 2009 - The second of two big Scandinavian goalies drafted by Snow last draft. This past year Nilsson split time in Lulea's net with Ducks prospect Matthias Modig. Modig is probably headed to the AHL next year making Nilsson Lulea's probable starter next year if the Isles don't sign him to an entry level. Nilsson didn't exactly light up the Elitserien with a line of 2.65 GAA and .897 Save % in 27 games. He is 20 so would be eligible to play in Bridgeport next season. Do the Isles bring him over to platoon with Koskinen at Bridgeport or let him be the starter in the Elitserien for Lulea? His current contract runs through the end of next season Verdict: Sweden for another year, then he comes over for the 2011-12 season.
Stefan Ridderwall - 6th Round, 173 Overall 2006 - Ridderwall has been the forgotten goalie prospect for the Isles, but has opened up some eyes with his performance in the Elitserien this year. Platooning with Gustaf Wesslau in Djurgarden's net, Ridderwall has put up a line of 2.30 GAA and a .917 Save % in 26 games. This is a major improvement over his previous years with Djurgarden that saw him either injured or putting up poor performances. Ridderwall's contract is up at the end of the season and it is believed Elitserien side Timra is after him to be their starter. Since he will be out of contract, the Isles would not be required to pay Djurgarden the fee. With the new transfer agreement, the Isles' rights to Ridderwall are close to running out as well so if they want to bring him state-side it will have to be this off season. Verdict: I think he signs an entry-level deal and plays at least the beginning of the season in Bridgeport. If he doesn't like it, he can always Dusan Salficky his way back to Europe.
David Ullstrom - 4th Round, 102 Overall 2008 - HV 71's big winger was one of the Elitserien's scoring leaders at the beginning of the season but injury and the veteran depth of HV 71 has stalled his season. Ullstrom can play both right wing and Center, with RW where he will probably wind up long-term. At 6'3"/200 Ullstrom can add some size to the front line of Bridgeport and eventually the Islanders. His size and his position at RW make him very attractive for the Isles to bring over. he will be 21 on April 22nd, so he would be AHL eligible next year. He does have a year remaining on his contract with HV 71, so in order to sign him the Isles would have to pay the transfer fee. Verdict - Ullstrom signs an entry-level deal and plays for Bridgeport next season. Personally I'm pretty high on Ullstrom.
While the Isles aren't as impacted by the agreement as say Detroit is with 6 of their top prospect playing in Sweden, they are affected. Ullstrom is the only one this offseason they would make a run at that would require a fee, and if they believe he will be a future part of the organization the fee wouldn't be that big a deal.
There are also several prospects in the upcoming draft affected by the agreement, four of the NHL Central Scouting's top 10 European skaters play in Sweden (Rensfeldt, Lindberg, Pettersson and Johansson). There are also player like Mats Zuccarello Aasen that went undrafted, had success and can now come over to the NHL without violating their current contracts. With Finland and now Sweden signing transfer agreements, Russia is the only major producer of NHL talent left without a transfer agreement.