NHL primes pump for future talent with transfer fees

By Stephen Whyno (AP Hockey Writer)

When Rasmus Dahlin put pen to paper on his first NHL contract, the reverberations carried to Gothenburg and Lidkoping in his native Sweden.

The No. 1 overall pick signing with the Buffalo Sabres earned Sweden more than $250,000 to put back into development.

”It’s unreal,” Dahlin said. ”We need all the money we can get.”

Last year alone, the NHL paid more than $35 million in transfer fees as teams signed European players. There are agreements in place with all the major hockey-producing countries except Russia and Switzerland that allow the free flow of players to the best league in the world.

”The purpose I suppose is to help prime the pump for hockey development,” deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly said. ”The pool of players who can play in the National Hockey League continues to increase on a regular basis. … There’s more better players than ever before.”

When the world junior championship begins Wednesday in Canada, it will be a showcase of that emerging talent spurred along in Europe and North America by this money. The NHL also sends junior leagues in Canada and the United States over $12 million annually and provides financial support for USA Hockey.

That feeder system is partially responsible for the game’s explosion of young talent in recent years. Nowhere is that more evident than Sweden, which received roughly $8 million last year for Dahlin and more than 30 other players signing NHL contracts.

”That money is obviously huge,” said Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who is Swedish. ”It doesn’t just go to the pro teams. I think it funnels down to your first team and the teams that are developing you and have been taking you on this ride. And that money is doing the same for the next generation of players: setting up with the right facilities and the right coaches and just try to surround them with the best circumstances that they can so they can succeed. That’s one of the reasons why Sweden’s been able to keep producing players.”

The investment makes sense for the NHL, which currently has players from 16 different countries. The 31 – soon to be 32 – teams split the costs equally each year.

It’s beneficial for national federations and European leagues and teams, too, even if Swedish Hockey Association vice president Peter Forsberg had to convince those in charge it was better to make a deal with the NHL than lose players for nothing.

”I told them that I think it’s better you have an agreement because then we have impact in the kind of discussions,” said Forsberg, who shares the same name with the retired NHL star. ”All the players who sign a contract with Swedish club or European club or whatever, they have always an out clause that they can go to the NHL. We can’t ever keep them in our league if you want to keep them in our league. We cannot sign the long contract that they do in soccer in Europe. We don’t have that kind of possibilities.”

The trick is making sure the money goes to what it’s designed for. Daly, who has been in charge of transfer fees since the end of the 2004-05 lockout, said federations are responsible for reporting where the funds go because the goal is to keep churning out players who one day could make it to the NHL.

The federations distribute the money to various levels as they see fit. Forsberg said 95 percent of fees go back into programs that grow the sport in Sweden.

”We ensure that the money goes back to the development,” Forsberg said. ”You can see that on the result that we have around 10 percent of Swedish players are today in NHL (and) that 10 percent of players in NHL are Swedes. We can see that we have a high production line.”

That’s also the case in Finland, which has the league’s leading scorer in Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen and produced Winnipeg’s 43-goal scorer Patrik Laine, young Dallas defenseman Miro Heiskanen and a whole generation of emerging star players.

”They take care of the players, they help players to develop them to get ready to come over,” Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen said. ”Like you’ve seen the last few years, Finnish players are really stepping up, so it’s a credit to every team back home.”

Government contributions and smart leadership have also helped hockey blossom across Europe. Kronwall credited longtime coach-turned-general manager Tommy Boustedt for setting up position-specific camps in Sweden that specifically allowed for the development of Dahlin and more modern defensemen.

The NHL money paved the way for that.

”We’re a hard-working country,” Dahlin said. ”We’re humble. We don’t have a lot of players, but some of the guys come to the NHL and for me, a younger guy, I know that a Swedish guy can make it, too.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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    The Wraparound: Inexperienced Hurricanes look for Game 7 road win

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    The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

    If the Carolina Hurricanes are going to eliminate the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream), they’re going to have to come up with their first road victory of the series. In Game 6, the ‘Canes found a way to come up with the first lead change of the series, so maybe we can expect the unexpected tonight.

    The Caps have 19 players on their roster that have played in a Game 7. The Hurricanes only have seven.

    It should be fascinating to see how the defending Stanley Cup Champions respond to the controversial ending in Game 6. With the Caps trailing 3-2 in the third period, Alex Ovechkin seemingly tied the game, 3-3, but the goal was called back because the officials felt like he jarred the puck out from under Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek. Ovechkin visibly upset and he was eventually ejected from the game for sarcastically applauding the officials after they called him for slashing.

    Regardless of how angry the Caps captain is in Game 7, the Hurricanes have to find way to overcome their inexperience. Of course, even though the roster remains very young, those players can look to one of the best big-game performers of this generation, Justin Williams, for guidance.

    [NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    “We don’t have a ton of those, but we do have Mr. Game 7,” head coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s nice for young guys to look across the room and see a guy who’s approaching the game the same way. We’ve had tons of emotions in the whole series, and you’ve got to go make plays. His game’s not going to change. That’s comforting for some guys.”

    The 37-year-old has just three points in the first six games of the series, but his calming presence in big moments can’t be understated. Williams has faced elimination 23 times in his career, and in those games he’s found a way to score an incredible 15 goals and 27 points. Remarkable.

    Now, the rest of his teammates have to follow his lead.

    Sebastian Aho, who led the Hurricanes in scoring this season, has picked up four points in six games during this series, but only one of those points has come on the road. The 21-year-old helped create the turnover that led to the game-tying goal in Game 6. He needs to find a way to make a similar impact in Game 7.

    Mrazek has made some huge stops to keep his team in games all series. But there’s no denying that his numbers need to improve away from home. In this series, he has a 3-0 record with a .959 save percentage at home. On the road, he’s 0-3 with an .833 save percentage.

    But it doesn’t matter what the numbers are in the series because the Hurricanes can put all that behind them if they win Game 7.

    Just hurry up, guys. The Islanders are waiting.

    PHT’s 2019 Stanley Cup playoff previews
    Capitals vs Hurricanes

    Power Rankings: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup
    NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1 schedule, TV info

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    PHT Morning Skate: Kotkaniemi has surgery; Avs aren’t one-line team

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    • Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday. (NHL.com/Canadiens)

    • Hilary Knight wants to help iron out the logistics of a women’s hockey league. “I’ve been able to work with some great partners and I’m extremely grateful for that, but I want that opportunity for the next girl or the next young woman that’s graduating college or the next woman that’s going to play at the professional level.” (Forbes)

    • ESPN looks back at Dominik Hasek’s 70-save performance in a shutout win over the New Jersey Devils. “You’d probably have to put him on top of the greatest goalies,” Martin Brodeur said. “For the great players, the more you see of them, the more you get them. Like with [Wayne] Gretzky, I got him, but I played more against Mario Lemieux. And I was able to see the effect that he had. Dominik is in the same vein.” (ESPN)

    • The Hockey News argues that the NHL shouldn’t change the playoff format. (The Hockey News)

    • Jack Todd argues that there’s reason to be optimistic heading into next season if you’re a fan of the Montreal Canadiens. (Montreal Gazette)

    • How did the New Jersey Devils defensemen perform based on quality of competition this season? (All About the Jersey)

    • Find out how the Tampa Bay Lightning went from winning 62 games in the regular season to none in the playoffs. (SB Nation)

    • Hockey fans keep suggesting that the Colorado Avalanche are a one-line team, but they’re deeper than you might realize. (Mile High Hockey)

    • The Blues are now the favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

    • Travis Yost argues that the Buffalo Sabres should definitely extend Evan Rodrigues. (Buffalo News)

    Jaccob Slavin is the most important Carolina Hurricane. (Cardiac Cane)

    • Why has home-ice advantage meant so much to Carolina and Washington in their series? (NBC Sports Washington)

    • The second-round series between the Stars and Blues will feature two great goalies. (NHL)

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    Golden Knights compare Eakin major to infamous call against Saints

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    In case you’re wondering: yes, the Vegas Golden Knights are very unhappy about Cody Eakin receiving a game misconduct and five-minute major for cross-checking Joe Pavelski, which opened the door for the San Jose Sharks scoring an staggering four goals on the ensuing power play.

    The Sharks would eventually fight back from a 3-0 deficit with that power play, although they needed OT to beat the Golden Knights 5-4, which means the Sharks won the series 4-3.

    Here’s the hit, which left Pavelski bleeding, and needing plenty of help to leave the ice surface. (Pavelski didn’t return, and the extent of his injuries remains unknown.)

    Whether you believe that was the right call or not, it absolutely swung the game, at least for a time. The Golden Knights were up 3-0, and it seemed like they could weather most things … but a power play that wouldn’t end even if the Sharks scored multiple goals? That wasn’t most things.

    Credit the Golden Knights for playing well after the shock of that, even scoring a goal to send Game 7 to overtime, but that doesn’t mean they put that call aside.

    The most colorful quotes probably come from Jonathan Marchessault, the player who scored the goal to send the game to overtime, and who had a strong Game 7 overall.

    “It’s the same thing as that football game, the Saints, it changes the whole outcome,” Marchessault said, via Sin Bin Vegas’ transcription. “The refs just got involved in the game and now our summer starts. Now five [expletive] months until game one.”

    Marchessault is referencing the missed pass interference call from the Saints – Rams NFC title game back in January, which drew an admission of a mistake from the NFL.

    ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski has more from Marchessault, though a warning: Marchessault’s comments apparently rank as NSFW and not very family-friendly.

    It seems like Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant kept it together a bit more, or at least used more PG-friendly language.

    “Last season we lost in the Stanley Cup Final, and that was hard,” Gallant said, according to Jesse Granger of the Athletic. “But tonight, this is worse.”

    No doubt, officials will be scrutinized for that call. The NHL might even feel compelled to tweak the way calls are made because of it. That much, we’ll need to wait and see.

    Yet, there are some questions from Vegas’ end. Yes, it’s difficult to kill five minutes of power play, especially against a Sharks team that a) is extremely dangerous, b) was furious after seeing Joe Pavelski hurt, c) had already failed on four power plays, and d) smelled blood with its season on the line. Still, should Gallant had called a timeout to try to ease some of the momentum, and calm things down? Could Marc-Andre Fleury have stopped at least one of those four goals? As the anger subsides, the Golden Knights should grapple with some of those questions, even if they leave a bitter taste.

    Much like the Rams advancing to the Super Bowl, the Sharks eliminated the Golden Knights and will face the Avalanche in Round 2, whether that finish seems unfair or not. The Golden Knights will have to face bitter months in trying to avenge this loss.

    And, true, they might also lose some money if the league decides to fine them for criticizing the officiating.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    The Playoff Buzzer: Bruins, Sharks in Game 7 heaven after clinching respective Round 1 series

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    • The Toronto Maple Leafs must hate facing the Boston Bruins in Round 1. They’re now 0-for-3 in attempts to beat them in the opening series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after the Bruins beat them 5-1 in Game 7
    • 3-1 down in the series. 3-0 down in the third period of Game 7. And somehow, some way, the San Jose Sharks are off to the second round

    Bruins 5, Leafs 1 (BOS wins 4-3)

    It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as recent Game 7s between these two clubs, but the Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead, survived an onslaught in the second period and then found three more in the third as Mike Babcock failed to adjust in time. The Leafs are now 8-12 under Babcock in the playoffs over the past three seasons and are out of the playoffs after spending big money on John Tavares and bolstering their back end to get Jake Muzzin prior to the trade deadline. All for naught, and a lot of questions that need to be answered in TO.

    Sharks 5, Golden Knights 4 [OT] (SJS wins 4-3)

    How do you explain this one? Down 3-0 in the third period, the San Jose Sharks are sent a gift from the heavens in the form of a controversial five-minute major assessed to Cody Eakin. Then this happened:

    PHT’s James O’Brien has the rest in the link above.

    Three stars

    1. Kevin Labanc, San Jose Sharks

    Four points in a span of four minutes and change, including the go-ahead goal to cap off one of the greatest comebacks in hockey history (and sports, too).

    Labanc assisted on the three goals that led to a tied game, all on the power play after Eakin’s major. Quite the turnaround for Labanc, who had one goal coming into Game 7.

    Oh, and he set one record and matched another:

    2. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks

    Couture sparked the comeback, scoring seven seconds into Eakin’s major.

    “The message was that’s one, let’s go,” Couture said after the game.

    After Tomas Hertl scored his sixth of the series to pull San Jose to 3-2, Couture joined him with his sixth to tie the game.

    3. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

    Rask had the kitchen thrown at him in the second period but stopped 12 of 13 in the frame to preserve a 2-1 lead. That effort (along with his 12 first-period saves) seemed to propel the Bruins in the third. Boston found three more goals, including two into an empty net and shut down the Leafs who were out of options and out of ideas to solve Rask.

    Unlikely star of the night

    Barclay Goodrow, San Jose Sharks

    Goodrow barely played in regulation, going minus-3 and then he was stapled to the bench in the overtime period.

    “Legs were fresh,” Goodrow joked following the game.

    Fresh enough that he made sure the Sharks moved onto Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two playoff goals for Goodrow. Two game-winners.

    Highlights of the night

    Goodrow’s series clincher in OT:

    Sometimes big goals come from lower down the lineup. This one was massive:

    Factoids of the night

    Bizarre video of the night

    Wednesday’s game

    Game 7: Hurricanes at Capitals (Series tied 3-3), 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Live Stream)


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck