Swedish Elite League now open for NHLers

The Swedish Elite League’s Aug. 23 decision to not accept rental players from the National Hockey League in the event of the North American pros being locked out was overruled Friday, reports Aftonbladet.

Due to an anti-trust ruling by the Swedish Competition Authority, which could still be appealed, the SEL must permit its clubs to sign members of the NHLPA to short-term contracts or be fined 20 million Swedish krona (roughly $2.99 million Canadian).

“The hockey league’s decision can be likened to a cartel,” Per Karlsson, senior counsel at the Competition Authority, said in a statement on Friday, reported by the Globe and Mail. “The decision means that ice hockey clubs that are affiliated to Swedish Hockey AB (Elitserien) must decide themselves if they want to sign contracts with locked-out NHL players or not.”

Previously, the Swedish league wished to only accept NHLers willing to sign long-term deals of at least one full season.

Vancouver Canucks Daniel and Henrik Sedin said in August that they would consider a return to Sweden if the NHL has a work stoppage.

“Absolutely,” Daniel told Expressen.se. “We have talked to Markus Naslund this summer here in Ovik and he understands the situation, he has been in the same situation.”

The Sedin brothers played for Modo during the 2004-05 lockout, when several NHL players went over to Sweden. Most were Swedish players, including Henrik Zetterberg, who led the league in scoring, but others including Mike Knuble, Shawn Horcoff and Brendan Morrison played in the Elitserien (Swedish Elite League).

Ottawa Senators Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, another Swede, previously expressed his disappointment regarding the SEL’s resistance to short-term deals and is now a likely candidate to go overseas.

Barring an appeal, the ruling could well open the floodgates for Swedish players to play in their homeland. Reports starting buzzing as soon as Friday’s ruling came down.