The European free-agent market has produced some great talent over the years. From Artemi Panarin to Sergei Bobrovsky, undrafted star players are available to sign in each year. The main issue with signing these players this season is COVID. It is what hampered teams last year when they tried to bring over players from Europe, with some stating job security and unknowns with the pandemic as a determining factor. Hopefully, by puck drop next season, the pandemic will be under control, and we can see some of these stars in North America. Here are some names to watch out for this off-season as Seattle looks to find their hidden gem.
Konstantin Okulov plays for CSKA Moskva of the KHL. If his name sounds familiar, it is because teams have been interested in him in the past. So far, he has chosen to stay in Russia, where he has helped CSKA make the league finals. This offseason could be the perfect time for Okulov to make the transition over to the NHL, and Seattle would be a great fit.
This season, Okulov put up a career-high 49 points in 55 games. He also has 20 points in 22 playoff games so far. He has a great shot and the ability to find open teammates in the offensive zone. He has decent size at 6’0″, 183 pounds, and is not afraid to use the body. He could help the Kraken’s power play establish themselves as a threat early next season.
Okulov will get a lot of interest this offseason, but Seattle should push hard and try to get a deal with the young Russian star.
Oscar Lindberg does have some NHL pedigree. The 29-year-old played 252 NHL games with the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, and Vegas Golden Knights. He also has international experience with Sweden both at the junior level and men’s level. This season with Dynamo Moskva, he put up 36 points in 44 games.
Lindberg is a great depth piece who understands the challenges of joining an expansion team. He was part of Vegas’s expansion season roster and could provide insight to the players on what challenges may lie ahead. He is not going to provide a lot of scoring at the NHL level, but you need those bottom-six veterans in your lineup who can chip in on occasion and guide the younger players. Lindberg can also kill penalties and is not afraid to throw some hits, as evident by his 405 career NHL hits. This is a low-risk signing for Seattle. In a worst-case scenario, you can also send him to the AHL. He may not be the flashiest of players, but Lindberg would provide value to the Kraken lineup.
Jesper Frödén currently plays in the SHL with Skellefteå AIK. He had a breakout season this year, recording 22 goals and 40 points in 52 games. This was a big jump from last year, where he only scored 12 times and registered 29 points in 49 games. Frödén has great offensive ability and can skate pretty well. He is currently in his prime (26) and would be an intriguing option for Seattle this season.
If Frödén comes over to the NHL next season, he would have to be a power-play specialist – one of these players you put in the bottom-six who can provide energy while playing second power-play minutes. The main concern is his size. He is listed at 5-foot-10, 176 pounds. Size has not stopped players before, but he will need to get stronger in order to compete in the NHL.
This player would be a project for Seattle. Frödén does have experience playing with and against NHL players. He played with Philip Broberg of the Edmonton Oilers last season. The question is, how will he react to the increased physical play in North America. He has a lot of potentials and could be a decent player if given the chance. Another low-risk, high-reward signing Seattle should look into.
Bang For Your Buck
All three of these signings would be low-risk, high-reward. In a flat cap world, you need to look for bargains, and the European free agent market may be exactly where you find them. You may even find the next Mats Zuccarello if you take a chance on these players. These players have had success overseas, but the question is can they bring that intensity and contribute in the NHL.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.