STOCKHOLM – The Swedish Competition Authority gave today an interim decision on the Swedish Elitserien’s decision to not sign NHL players currently locked out, forcing the league to leave it to each club to decide whether they want to sign players or not.
“The league’s action can be compared to a cartel. The clubs' mutual decision to boycott certain players is not allowed according to the competition laws,” Per Karlsson, the SCA’s Head of Legal Department, said in a press release.
“Each club must be able to take independent decisions on their investments,” he added.
The Swedish second-tier league, HockeyAllsvenskan, made a similar decision a few days after Elitserien, but later changed it, after “the majority of the clubs wasn’t opposed to others signing NHLers.”
Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues, has already signed with his Västerås in the HockeyAllsvenskan, and Anze Kopitar has joined his brother Gasper in Mora in the same league.
The Swedish league’s CEO Jörgen Lindgren said the league will now have to analyze the SCA’s decision. The league could, if it chooses so, appeal the decision to the Swedish Market Court.
“We’ll study the decision, and then we’ll see what we’ll do,” he told Swedish Expressen.
The Swedish Competition Authority’s decision, while interim, is in force until the final decision will be announced, and the league faces a 20-million krona (€2.3 million) fine should it decide not to abide by the decision.
Some clubs are rumoured to sign NHLers almost immediately, while others are, at least for now, still willing to stay the course and not sign NHLers.
“It’s an unfortunate decision,” Curt Johansson, Luleå’s chairman, told the Swedish Radio.
“Not all clubs have NHLers they can sign, and then there’s the financial part of it. The European and Swedish economies aren’t doing well, and it’d be strange if we’d invest heavily when our partners have to pull back,” he added.
Alexander Steen has skated with MODO Örnsköldsvik all week, and the club already tried to appeal to the Elitserien to sign him to replace Samuel Påhlsson who tore his Achilles tendon in August. Also, it was Steen’s agent Kalle Bodén who took the case to the SCA.
HV71 is said to be interested in signing the Blackhawks’ defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Frölunda, in turn, has been in touch with Henrik Lundqvist, Erik Karlsson, and Loui Eriksson.
“That’s right, we’ve had discussions with them,” Frölunda CEO Anderz Larqvist told SVT Sport.
“My plan right now is to stay in NY for a few weeks to practice. If this drags on I might go home and see friends and family back in Sweden,” Henrik Lundqvist wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
While there have been no league decisions in Finland, only a few Finnish NHLers have decided to return to SM-liiga, at least for now, opposed to numerous signings in other countries such as Russia, Switzerland or the Czech Republic.
The Hurricanes’ Jussi Jokinen played his first game this week, and scored a goal, Jesse Joensuu will play for his hometown team Ässät Pori on Saturday, and Lennart Petrell has already also skated with his HIFK Helsinki.
“We’re not looking to add anybody else,” Ässät GM Mika Toivola told Finnish MTV3.
“Some of the NHLers want to wait and see. The deeper we get into the season, the more there will be demand. This is the first phase but if the lockout drags on, there will be a new market of players,” added JYP Jyväskylä CEO Kari Tyni.
“We’d like to see the NHL games under way as usual. This also an opportunity, stars will make the league better and make it more interesting. On the other hand, the clubs will have to find new backers to sign NHLers,” Tyni added.