by Chipp Reid

One fan’s loss isn’t necessarily another fan’s gain, at least not in hockey.
While leagues from Russia to England line up to grab locked-out National Hockey League stars, the Elitserien remains aloof from the fray, adamant that its team will not “rent” NHL players on a short-term basis.
The NHL owners officially locked out the players at midnight on Sept. 16, making the league's more than 700 players free agents—as long as they ply their trade outside North America. The Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League made the first moves, grabbing Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin and Ottawa Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar, both of whom signed with Metallurg Sept. 16.
For players such as Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the brothers that play for the Vancouver Canucks, however, the future may not be as clear. The Elitserien enacted a rule that any NHL players who leave North American for Sweden must sign for the entire season. It is a major change from the 2004-05 lockout, when Swedish teams simply signed NHL players for the duration of the labor stoppage.
During the last lockout that cancelled the 2004-05 season, the Sedins played for Modo while Henrik Zetterberg, Mike Knuble, Shawn Horcoff and Brendan Morrison were among more than 70 NHL players who skated in the Swedish league. But the majority of those contracts had out-clauses so players could return to the NHL if a settlement had been reached. Players were also met with some initial resentment from taking jobs from established SEL players, but team directors were more than pleased with the increase in attendance the NHL players created.
This time, there is no opt-out clause for NHL players, although there is a transfer window under which up to seven players per team could move elsewhere. The Elitserien also has a limit of three foreign players per team, although the definition of foreign really means North American as players from European Union nations do not count toward the quota.
In an unusual twist, the second-tier Allsvenskan announced it would allow NHL to sign with an opt-out clause should the North American circuit resolve the labor dispute. Sweden’s Competition Authority is also looking into the Elitserien rule regarding NHL players since the Elitserien’s contract with its players union does not include bans on short-term deals.
“I think the prohibition of any locked-out NHL players by the top division of the hockey league can be repealed,” Per Karlsson, general counsel of the Swedish Competition Authority, told The Expressen Sept. 15 after challenging the Elitserien to explain its ban.
“We will investigate this further,” Karlsson said after studying the league’s five-page brief, adding a decision was “a priority for us” and would come “quickly.”
The decision can’t come soon enough for many Swedish players looking to return home during the lockout.
The NHL's highest-scoring defenseman last season, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, is considering taking his talents to Sweden this season.
“We’re looking at options. We’re not trying to make a deal with anyone,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is just figure out if worst comes to worst what would be the best place. You need to be prepared for whatever is going to happen. You just want to go somewhere and it could be good.”
The 22-year-old Sweden native tallied an impressive 78 points for Ottawa in 2011-12 and is arguably the best young defenseman in the league today.
“The scary part is I think you’ll see some of the best players in the game (going over),” said Calgary Flames forward Mike Cammalleri. “Let’s hope they come back when they’re going to get paid the dollars they’re going to get paid in some of these leagues to go play now.”
The Elitserien opened its season Sept. 12 and has already played three rounds out of 55. As the teams solidify their rosters, the availability of NHL players makes some spots tenuous, especially for less experienced Elitserian players.
Nearly 400 NHL players suited up in 19 different European leagues during the 2004-05 lockout. It was a migration that came with a fair bit of controversy as the NHLers pushed others out of jobs.
The debate around that topic has already started up again, but it’s unlikely to deter many of the 750 locked-out members of the NHL Players’ Association.
"I'm a hockey player and it's a competitive business," said Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. "Would I look forward to that opportunity of taking someone's job? No. But at the end of the day I'm a hockey player."



If the NHL's most recognizable player ends up signing in Europe at some point, he's most likely to head to Russia or Switzerland. Malkin, Crosby's Penguins teammate, is already believed to have started lobbying No. 87 to join him.
The KHL has established guidelines for its teams to follow during the lockout. Each is permitted to sign a maximum of three NHLers for a salary worth no more than 65 percent of what they were due to earn in North America this season. Now in its fifth season, the KHL believes it is in a position to capitalize on the availability of so many elite players.
"Mainly I think it's going to be a lot of additional marketing potential for the league and hockey itself as a game," KHL vice-president Ilya Kochevrin said. "The stars bring additional attention ... to a lot of people who probably don't consider hockey the sport of choice. I think as a marketing tool it's a great opportunity."
The biggest issue for players is making sure they're properly insured in case of injury—a relatively straightforward process for those who are healthy and on short-term details, but much more complicated for a player like Crosby, who has a concussion history and is owed nearly US $112 million over the next 13 seasons.
European teams will pick up the tab for a player's insurance premium, which one agent estimated will range between $2,500 and $20,000 per month.