Fabian Brunnstrom could not make the cut for the Swedish national team, but that has hardly dampened the enthusiasm of NHL teams that have been given a second chance to land the ballyhooed free agent prospect.
The Hockey News has learned Brunnstrom’s agent, J.P. Barry, has instructed all NHL teams interested in signing the 23-year-old winger for Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League to submit a one-page proposal by next Monday outlining their offer and essentially selling themselves on why it would be the best place for Brunnstrom to play. Barry will go over them with Brunnstrom shortly after that and the list will then be narrowed down to a group of five, with whom Brunnstrom will seriously negotiate.
A total of 15 teams already have or indicated they will be submitting a proposal by Monday. The Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings have all filed their submissions.
The Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Red Wings are believed to be the frontrunners at this stage, but the situation is a fluid one and that could change after all the proposals are received by the Brunnstrom camp.
The market for Brunnstrom opened up again just recently when the Vancouver Canucks fired GM Dave Nonis, just prior to Brunnstrom agreeing to a contract. The Canucks have not yet filed a proposal and it is not known whether they will by Monday.
Teams that hoped to meet with Brunnstrom at the World Championship in Halifax and Quebec City will not be able to do that. There had been speculation that Brunnstrom would be part of the Swedish team for the tournament, but Swedish GM Mats Naslund said Brunnstrom’s level of play dropped off significantly during the second half of the season.
“He had a great start to the season and until Christmas he was playing like a national team player,” Naslund said. “But since Christmas he has not progressed good enough for us.”
Brunnstrom finished the season with Farjestad with nine goals and 37 points in 54 games.
In fact, Naslund cautioned that fans and media in North America who think Brunnstrom will immediately be an impact player might be getting ahead of themselves at this point. He said Brunnstrom is a fine young player, “but I think he has a little more to prove.”
“I don’t really get it,” Naslund said when asked about the excitement surrounding the young player.
The Swedes, meanwhile, defeated Latvia 4-3 in a pre-tournament game Thursday night and while their roster is taking shape, Naslund said the team would go with a lot of players who are currently playing in Sweden because a number of NHLers declined invitations.
Mikael Tellqvist of the Phoenix Coyotes will be the starting goalie and will be backed up by Erik Ersberg, who finished the season with the Los Angeles Kings.
On defense, the Swedes will have Alexander Edler of the Vancouver Canucks, Anton Stralman of the Toronto Maple Leafs, former NHLer Kenny Jonsson, Magnus Johansson of the Florida Panthers and Niclas Wallin of the Carolina Hurricanes. Rookie Tobias Enstrom of the Atlanta Thrashers could not play because of an eye injury the team wants rectified immediately.
The only forwards to commit so far are super rookie Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals, Marcus Nilsson of the Panthers and Robert Nilsson of the Edmonton Oilers. The Swedes are still waiting for word on Kristian Huselius of the Calgary Flames and Michael Nylander of the Capitals.
Naslund said he would likely even keep spots open in the hope that either the Dallas Stars or Detroit Red Wings lose in the second round. Should the Red Wings lose, the Swedes would have access to defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Andreas Lilja and forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom and Mikael Samuelsson. If Dallas were to lose, the Swedes would have a chance at defensemen Mattias Norstrom and Nicklas Grossman and forwards Loui Eriksson, Niklas Hagman, and Joel Lundqvist.
When informed Red Wings GM Ken Holland might not appreciate Naslund cheering for his team to lose, Naslund joked, “We always cheer against them. They won us a World Championship two years ago.”