Now that the NHL has extended its player development agreements with the CHL and European leagues, the Detroit Red Wings and other NHL can begin signing free agents from across the pond for the 2020-21 season.
They’ve already signed Mathias Brome and could add more. As the Red Wings rebuild, they need to consider all options when it comes to finding talent. The draft alone isn’t enough.
With that being said, let’s take a look at a few European players who could be valuable additions for the Red Wings.
LW Julius Nattinen
I highlighted Julius Nattinen as part of my offseason blueprint for the Red Wings, so I won’t go into a ton of detail here.
A quick summary on Nattinen is that he has above-average offensive skill, can score, skates well enough, has a large frame, and just turned 23. Intrigued? You should be.
It should be noted, though, that Nattinen may need a season in the AHL to adjust. The former second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks spent the 2017-18 season with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL, producing only 12 points in 55 games. However, Nattinen picked up the slack offensively after transitioning to the wing when he moved overseas to Finland’s top league, where he scored 33 goals and put up 55 points in 54 games this season.
LW/C Pius Suter
As we’ve seen with the acquisitions of Robby Fabbri and Brendan Perlini, Steve Yzerman likes bringing in players with connections to the Red Wings’ core. Pius Suter would be no different.
The Swiss forward skated with Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons in Guelph (OHL). During the latter season, Bertuzzi amassed 43 goals and 98 points, with Suter following closely behind with 43 goals as well and 72 total points. Clearly, the two have some chemistry.
In addition, Suter was part of Switzerland’s 2018 Olympic team, producing five points in four games. Two years out from the next Winter Games, he’s projected to be part of Switzerland’s team again.
Based on talent alone, Suter could conceivably jump straight to the NHL next season. The Red Wings will have to wait to sign him—or bid for his services—though.
“The only thing I can share is that Pius has several options on the table but he will wait after July 1st to sign. He is not in a hurry and wants to see first where the interested organizations are heading to.”–Suter’s agent Georges Muller to The Athletic (from ‘What we’re hearing about the Blackhawks in the wake of the suspended NHL season’ – The Athletic Chicago – 3/13/20)
RW Malte Stromwall & C Fredrik Handemark
Good hockey players, great names. There have been some rumblings that the Red Wings intend to sign Malte Stromwall and Fredrik Handemark, but nothing official has come out yet.
Stromwall just finished a standout season in the KHL, where he produced 39 points in 52 games, which led HK Sochi and ranked 27th in the league (tied with former Red Wing Teemu Pulkkinen). He turns 26 in August shoots right.
Handemark, on the other hand, is a towering center who’s a year older than Stromwall. He captained Malmo in Sweden’s top league the past three seasons and finished the 2019-20 campaign with 38 points in 52 games.
Neither player figures to join the Red Wings right away if they indeed sign with Detroit.
The Red Wings could benefit from adding a European free agent or two this offseason. Chances are, they won’t be impact players, but could be nice depth pieces down the road.
It should also be noted that the Red Wings have a logjam of forwards on the NHL roster. If they sign one or more of these players, they’ll likely start in the AHL – both for their own benefit and likely out of necessity as well.