Oilers closing in on signing Swedish free agent Joakim Nygard

Ken Hitchcock gave his assessment of what the Edmonton Oilers are missing and why he thinks they can turn around their fortunes fairly quickly.

The Edmonton Oilers and new general manager Ken Holland are looking overseas to improve the roster ahead of the 2019-20 season and the team is on the verge of signing free agent forward Joakim Nygard out of Färjestad in the Swedish Hockey League.

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector confirmed with Nygard’s agent, Matt Keator of Olympic Sports Management, that a deal is “all but done” and that the winger could officially sign a contract with the Oilers as early as Friday.

“He’s dialled in [on Edmonton],” Keator told Spector. “He sees a lot of opportunity, with a new GM and a new coach. It’s a great situation.”

Due to the collective bargaining agreement and the fact Nygard is a 26-year-old undrafted European, it will be a one-year deal worth a maximum of $925,000.

“He’s one year away from [being] unrestricted,” Keator added. “It’s about opportunity and getting a chance to play. He likes what he sees there.”

The Stockholm native has been a member of Färjestad’s big club since 2013 and in recent months he began garnering interest from multiple NHL teams. Nygard is coming off a career year in which he finished second in SHL goals. He finished the 2018-19 season with 21 goals and 35 points in 52 games.

Known for his tremendous acceleration and footspeed, Nygard is often compared to Washington Capitals forward Carl Hagelin. He can fly. With a few notable exceptions – like some guy who wears No. 97 – the Oilers have a dearth of speedy forwards and this signing addresses a key need for the team up front.

Here’s a short example of his separation speed.

“He has put up a lot of points this season, but he does a lot of other things well too,” Sweden’s national team coach Rikard Grönborg told Swedish hockey writer Uffe Bodin back in March. “His speed and awareness on the ice make him very useful on the [penalty kill]. He has got a lot of good tools in his toolbox.”

The Calgary Flames were reportedly among the teams also interested in Nygard.

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