Last summer the Edmonton Oilers signed long-time Swiss league centre Gaetan Haas to an ELC. The 28-year-old had played in 10 seasons in the NLA, and had 38 points in 50 games for SC Bern in 2018-2019. He played 58 games for the Oilers with 10 points. That’s up to them to decide if that’s a success or not.
Signing an undrafted European free agent isn’t new, but signing one from the NLA is relatively rare. The main reason for that is that the Swiss league, with strict import rules that keep the teams mostly Swiss, is not one of the best European leagues in terms of quality of play and strength of teams.
The top Swiss players are already playing somewhere else, and the top prospects often go to other leagues to develop. Kevin Fiala played in Sweden and Nico Hischier played in the QMJHL. And aside from those two and Haas, there are only 12 other Swiss players in the NHL this season.
One name that has popped up in rumours lately is Pius Suter, the 23-year-old, undrafted winger who led the NLA in points this year. Suter is under contract to 2023, and under the current rules, the only way he can be signed by one of the NHL teams interested in him is if his Swiss contract has an NHL out clause in it, which his does.
But a report today says Switzerland is going to sign a transfer agreement with the NHL that will remove that restriction. Why? Money, of course.
According to Zaugg, the agreement will look as follows: NHL teams are allowed to sign any player until July 15, players which were drafted in that year until August 15. For the first ten players in a season, the NHL teams will have to pay $250,000, after that it is $350,000.
Additionally, they will have to compensate the teams for every drafted player. The sum will be divided among the last four teams the player played. With that new agreement in place, there would now no longer be a need for NHL out clauses in the National League players’ contracts.
The NLA is also looking at allowing their teams to sign more import players if they lose players to NHL free agency, which is a way to make everyone happy with this concept.
If this deal comes together, it opens the door to NHL teams scouring the ranks of the Swiss league for undiscovered gems a little more vigorously than they have. Just don’t expect miracles. Marc Arcobello was number two in points in the NLA behind Suter this year and Daniel Winnik was eighth.
But what if I told you about the right-shooting defender who is only 21, undrafted, short (I said undrafted, didn’t I?) and piled up points playing behind a hot top line in his first full season in the big leagues? Maybe Dominik Egli is worth a look, and if he is, with the transfer agreement in place, it becomes much more possible to try him out in the NHL or AHL.