NHL primes pump for future talent with transfer fees

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.”

Just Posted

New admissions have been suspended for Engineering Technology diplomas (Instrumentation, Electrical and Mechanical) and the Transitional Vocational Program at Red Deer College. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Developmentally disabled impacted: Red Deer College suspends program

Transitional Vocational Program comes to an end

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman holds up freedom of information requests that turned up no records. The Opposition requested back-to-school re-entry plan correspondence between Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and school boards, teachers and the media. Photo via Facebook live
NDP renews calls for Alberta gov’t to scrap K-6 draft curriculum

The NDP is once again calling on the Alberta Government to get… Continue reading

Earlier this week Alberta Health Services warned that Rocky Mountain House Health Centre emergency department would be temporarily without physician coverage from May 12, at 6 p.m., to May 13, at 7 a.m. (Photo contributed by the Town of Rocky Mountain House)
Doctors needed in Rocky Mountain House

Emergency department temporarily closed due to doctor shortage

The owner of Mae’s Kitchen in Mirror, says hamlet residents were ‘disheartened’ by a recent anti-restriction protest. The restaurant is following all the health restrictions in place. (Photo courtesy Mae’s Kitchen Facebook)
‘We don’t need that’: Mirror restaurant against recent anti-restriction protest

A week after a large anti-restriction protest at The Whistle Stop Cafe… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Winnipeg Jets' Kyle Connor (81) scores on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) as TJ Brodie (78) defends during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Friday, May 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Connor scores twice, Jets beat Leafs in regular-season finale

Connor scores twice, Jets beat Leafs in regular-season finale

Atletico Ottawa defender Vashon Neufville controls the ball during Atletico Ottawa’s first team practice of their inaugural season in the Canadian Premier League in Ottawa, Wednesday June 3, 2020. The Canadian Premier League plans to kick off its third season mid-June to early July in one location without fans. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Wattie
Canadian Premier League delays kickoff again, looks to mid-June to early July start

Canadian Premier League delays kickoff again, looks to mid-June to early July start

Calgary’s Stephen Ames shoots 66 to take Mitsubishi Electric lead

Calgary’s Stephen Ames shoots 66 to take Mitsubishi Electric lead

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) deflects a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, celebrates a goal with teammates during third period NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens, in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 5, 2021. Brown will lead a young Canadian squad into the world hockey championship in Riga, Latvia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jayna Hefford shakes hands with people associated with the hall before a hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils in Toronto. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association is forging ahead in its bid to establish an economically sustainable professional league in North America with or — for now — without the NHL’s full financial backing. In response to Sportsnet.ca reporting the NHL was not in a position to operate a women’s league for the foreseeable future, PWHPA executive Jayna Hefford wrote in an email to The Associated Press late Thursday that her group has begun developing what she called “a parallel path for a future that doesn’t rely on NHL support.” (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

Supporters dance during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., on Saturday, May 8, 2021. RCMP say they have ticketed four people after the rally that was attended by hundreds.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Most Read