As of Friday morning, there were nearly 60 NHL players that have signed with teams overseas as their owners lock them out in North America.
Many have chosen the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, where Alex Ovechkin made a rousing debut yesterday. Switzerland has also been a popular choice for players like Joe Thornton, Rick Nash, Tyler Seguin and Logan Couture (who, we imagine, just wanted the honor to play with Rico Fata).
That number should increase rather quickly, however, with Friday's anti-trust ruling by the Swedish Competition Authority that the Elitserien (a.k.a. Swedish Elite League) must allow its teams to sign NHL players to short-term contracts or else face a 20 million krona ($3.095 million US) fine.
Previously, the Swedish Elite League (SEL) was the only top European league that wasn't permitting NHL players to sign with its teams. The country's second-tier league, Allsvenskan, lifted its ban in early September; Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings was one of the players that opted to sign there.
Could there be an appeal? Perhaps. But the Swedish Elite League teams are already snatching up NHL players, hours after the ruling.
Modo announced that it had signed Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues; there's talk that Tobias Enström of the Winnipeg Jets could be next.
Another team has already targeted a trio of players. According to SVTSport, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Dallas Stars forward Loui Eriksson and Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson are all in talks with Frölunda.
According to Matias Strozyk of Jatkoaika.com, a slew of other big name NHL players are now free to sign with the SEL, like Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals; Alex Edler of the Vancouver Canucks; and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning;
But some NHL stars are still on the fence about going home. Daniel Alfredsson said he won't play in Europe during the lockout due to family commitments. As for Henrik and Daniel Sedin, they told the National Post that they'll leave for Sweden (and specifically Markus Naslund's Modo team) if they feel the NHL season is lost:
"Yeah, it would be fun to be able to help, but we talked this summer and told Markus we'd have to wait and see," Henrik said after skating Thursday at UBC. "If it's going to be a long lockout then we'll make a decision."
We're pretty sure Modo could find room on the roster for two more later in the season.