As the days go bye with no end in sight to the current NHL lockout, more and more players are finding alternative places to play with Europe becoming the most popular destination. The latest to ink a conditional contract is the Minnesota Wild’s defenseman, Jared Spurgeon who signed with the SCL Tigers in Switzerland according to Ben Goessling of the Pioneer Press.
Spurgeon confirmed the move via text message and now becomes just the second Wild player to potentially join a European club. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom had agreed with the Dynamo Minsk of the KHL but has since stayed back in Minnesota due to a minor ankle injury. If the lockout should drag on Backstrom could make his way over to Belarus.
Spurgeon’s decision was enticed by the opportunity to play with his best friend, Tyler Ennis who is also suiting up for the Tigers. Goessling states that the two grew up together in Edmonton, Alberta and the two have remained close since their childhood days. Now why they work out and keep their skills sharp they’ll have the chance to do so together.
The decision by Spurgeon could open the flood gates for other Wild to follow suit given that the Swedish government ordered their top professional league, the Elitserien to lift the ban on short-term contracts meaning locked out NHLers are welcome. Sweden now joins the KHL and the Swiss league as the top European leagues offering the North American players a chance to stay fit while the work stoppage is in effect and it allows the European clubs a chance to cash in financially with the star studded rosters.
Spurgeon ran into concussion problems that forced him to miss the final two weeks of the season last year but has since been cleared for full contact. In his sophomore season, the 22-year old played in 70 games while registering 23 points and a minus 4 rating. He saw his ice time jump dramatically from his rookie season going from over 15 minutes per game to over 21 minutes per game. That is likely to jump again should this season get underway as Wild coach Mike Yeo has already stated that he plans on pairing Spurgeon with newly signed all-star Ryan Suter. All we need now is some hockey.