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Eye on Europe: Playoff report

Mats Zuccarello Aasen scored 23 goals and 64 points in 55 games in the Swedish Elitserien. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Mats Zuccarello Aasen scored 23 goals and 64 points in 55 games in the Swedish Elitserien. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

While the International Ice Hockey Federation and the NHL couldn’t come to terms on a player transfer agreement all the European nations could get behind, some of the countries have struck their own deals with the league. Finland signed its player transfer agreement last summer and the Swedes, with a similar deal to the Finns, signed this week.

The new agreement will run through the 2011-12 season and according to the deal, the NHL will compensate Elitserien teams $225,000 for players signing with an NHL club. The compensation is up $25,000 from the previous agreement. Players can sign before June 15 and players who’ve been drafted into the NHL the same year can sign until Aug. 15.

“This agreement will generate millions for Swedish hockey,” said Peter Forsberg, vice chairman of the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation (and not that Forsberg).

Also, players under 22 who haven’t been drafted in the first round may return to the Elitserien if they can’t make the NHL club roster.

“That was important for us,” said Peter Gudmudson, CEO of Elitserien. “We care for our players and obviously want to keep them in Elitserien as long as possible. Besides, Elitserien is a great league to develop in.”

ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER AWARD
Six NHL clubs are reportedly after Mats Zuccarello Aasen, the Modo Hockey left-winger who won the Elitserien scoring title this season. This week he was also awarded the Golden Helmet as the Elitserien MVP voted by the players.

He was the first Norwegian to win the honor and the first non-Swede since Jarmo Myllys, who won the Golden Helmet in 1997.

JURY NOT OUT FOR LEHTERA
In Finland, the SM-liiga MVP was Tampere Tappara center, Jori Lehtera. The 22-year-old also won the scoring race by a 15-point margin with 19 goals and 50 helpers in 57 games.

“Of course it’s nice to get some awards, but there’s no time to enjoy these too much,” Lehtera said on the eve of the wild card round of the SM-liiga playoffs.

In Finland, the teams ranked sixth and higher go straight to the quarterfinal, while teams finishing seventh through 10th play a best-of-three series for the two remaining quarterfinal spots.

Lehtera came up through the Helsinki Jokerit junior system and made his SM-liiga debut with Jokerit in 2006, but signed with Tappara in 2007 hoping to get more ice time. In his first Tappara season, Lehtera collected 42 points in 54 games, last season he scored nine goals and 47 points in 58 games.

PUTTING THE ‘FANATIC’ BACK INTO ‘FAN’
While the eight-best teams in the Swedish Elitserien are playing the first round of the playoffs, there’s another post-season going on with stakes that are just as high. The two last-placed teams in the Elitserien – Rogle and Sodertalje – take on the four best from the HockeyAllsvenskan, the second-tier league in Sweden, for two spots in the Elitserien in 2010-11. The six teams play a round-robin league, home and away, with the winner and runner-up earning a spot in the Elitserien next season.

On Thursday, as Stockholm AIK lost its home game against Rogle in overtime, the AIK fans first threw objects into the Rogle bench. When Daniel Rahimi scored the game-winner – and celebrated it by hushing the AIK fans with his index finger on his lips – dozens of fans tried to get to the Rogle bench. Both the police and guards reacted quickly, but at least one fan got close enough to attempt a swing at Rogle’s coach.

“Yeah, I hushed them,” Rahimi said. “I thought they had acted in bad taste, especially towards the end, so it was nice to be able to shut them up.

“I regret it, but I still don’t think that they did the right thing. They got to our bench and that something like that can happen is unacceptable. I was pretty scared.”

Also, in Linkoping, Frolunda Indians got their bus windshield destroyed after their 4-3 win over Linkoping in Game 4 of the best-of-seven quarterfinal series.

HASEK LEADS TEAM TO SEMIS
In the Czech Extraliga, the only team through to the semifinal so far is Dominik Hasek’s HC Pardubice, who finished third in the regular season and downed HC Ocelari Trinec (sixth) 4-1 in the best-of-seven series. Hasek played all five games, recording one shutout and placing himself sixth in post-season goaltending statistics with a 2.35 goals-against average.

The regular season winner, Plzen, is down 3-2 in its series against Liberec. The regular season runner-up, Zlin, is also in trouble in its series against Slavia Prague, trailing 3-2, as is Prague’s other team, Sparta, in its series against Vitkovice.

LIV POST-SEASON MR. ZERO
HV71’s 2-0 win over Timra in Game 4 of its quarterfinal series was also goaltender Stefan Liv’s 11th career shutout in the post-season, moving him past Henrik Lundqvist as the all-time playoff shutout leader. Lundqvist recorded his 10 in 44 appearances with Frolunda. Liv got his 11th in his 87th game.

KHL CALLING?
Liv is rumored to be leaving his hometown HV71 next season for the Kontinental League. Other people believed be heading to the KHL are Team Sweden’s coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson and Team Switzerland’s longtime coach Ralph Krueger, both anticipated to be on their way to St. Petersburg SKA. Gustafsson and Krueger are old friends and Gustafsson has been Krueger’s assistant behind Switzerland’s bench in the past.

SKA’s coach for the past two seasons has been Barry Smith. The club’s chairman is Alexander Medvedev, also the president of the league.

Eye on Europe will be featured on THN.com every Friday throughout the season. Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden who also writes for NHL.com and IIHF.com. When not writing about European hockey on THN, he's probably writing about hockey at ristopakarinen.com/hockey as Puckarinen. 

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