NHL primes pump for future talent with transfer fees

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 defenceman 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 per cent 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 per cent of Swedish players are today in NHL (and) that 10 per cent 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 defenceman 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 defenceman 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 defencemen.

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.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whatever snow may possibly fall in Red Deer on the weekend will melt when it hits the warm ground, says meteorologist Kyle Fougere with Environment and Climate Change Canada. (File photo by ADVOCATE staff)
Weather expected to get warmer next week in Red Deer

It’s going to be a cold weekend, according to Environment Canada. Saturday… Continue reading

Retired city manager Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the Molly Banister Drive right-of-way at Tuesday's public hearing. He warns of future gridlock if the extension is removed by city council. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Former Red Deer city manager warns killing the Molly Banister Drive extension is ‘a terrible mistake’

Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the road alignment at next week’s public hearing

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

A Red Deer County man was arrested for drug possession by Innisfail RCMP on April 19. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Property crime and drugs top Red Deer RCMP priorities in new plan

2020-2022 Policing Priorities Plan going to city council on Monday

RCMP estimate about 500 people gathered on the weekend near Garrington Bridge along the Red Deer River, in a July 28, 2020 story. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Second person charged for alleged assault at anti-racism rally in Red Deer

A second person is facing charges following an alleged assault during an… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

kk
Don’t try to teach a turtle tricks

I got Smokey at Woolworths. Woolworths was an awesome department store downtown,… Continue reading

New voluntary measures, including the encouragement of more mask wearing, have been introduced in the Edmonton health zone. “Red Deer has been very fortunate to have relatively low case numbers . . . relative to the rest of the province and the country,” says Mayor Tara Veer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
POLL: Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?… Continue reading

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler throws against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning in Game 3 of the baseball World Series Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Buehler leads Dodgers over Rays 6-2 for 2-1 Series lead

Buehler leads Dodgers over Rays 6-2 for 2-1 Series lead

Most Read