The Hurricanes beat the clock on Tuesday, signing 2009 draft picks Mattias Lindstrom and Tommi Kivisto to entry-level contracts on the last possible day to retain their rights.
Had the team not agreed to terms with each player prior to 5 p.m. (the official announcement was made around 2:30), they would have re-entered the Entry Draft later this month. Under current rules, clubs have just two years to sign European-based prospects – a far more restrictive term than in the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Both contracts contain a European Assignment Clause, which means they will most likely return to their European club teams if they do not make the Hurricanes’ roster this fall – an unlikely scenario for each player. They could only suit up for the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte in 2011-12 if their European clubs permit it. Both players are in the final year of their European contracts.
Lindstrom, the Hurricanes’ third-round choice, 88th overall, presents an interesting case. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound forward with Skelleftea of the Swedish league missed most of the 2009-10 season with a serious knee injury but has since progressed enough that the team decided to offer him a contract despite his limited body of work.
“He basically missed a year of development and went through that process of getting back up to speed this year,” said Jason Karmanos, the Hurricanes’ vice president and assistant general manager. “By the end of the season, we felt he was near where he was (when we drafted him). The injury was unfortunate, but he’s still a player that intrigues us given his size and his desire to play a physical style.”
Lindstrom is scheduled to attend the Hurricanes’ rookie conditioning camp in July, as well as the rookie tournament in Traverse City in the fall. That will cause him to miss the first month of Skelleftea’s regular season, which is somewhat unusual.
“He’s not a guy that’s playing in their top six or even their top nine due to the injury and his age,” said Karmanos of the 20-year-old Lindstrom. “He was playing a role on a good team, so I think that’s part of the reason why they’re allowing him to participate fully in everything without too many complications.”
Kivisto’s club, Jokerit, will want him to return for the start of the regular season, which will cause the player to miss the Traverse City tournament. Kivisto, a seventh-round choice by the Hurricanes (208th overall), has firmly established himself among the Finnish team’s top six defensemen.
Kivisto has taken an interesting path to get to this point, having originally arrived in Red Deer of the Western Hockey League as a highly-touted prospect in 2008 only to return to his home country the next season.
“In Red Deer, he went through the adjustment of being in a new country and a new league and didn’t play as well as expected, and we ended up drafting him in the seventh round when, at the beginning of the year, he was supposed to be a first-rounder,” said Karmanos. “He went back home, and really it wasn’t until this season that he really, in our opinion, started to progress pretty dramatically. By the end of the year he was playing a solid role at the elite level.”
Kivisto was able to attend the Hurricanes' conditioning camp last year and was impressive.
“He opened some eyes at the conditioning camp because he was an extremely fit athlete and clearly showed that he was committed to being a player,” said Karmanos.
The Hurricanes will be hoping to see more of the same from Lindstrom, who was unable to attend the camp last season due to a scheduling complication with Skelleftea.
"We're looking forward to seeing him in the flesh," said Karmanos.
Also slated to attend conditioning camp for the first time are 2010 draft picks Mark Alt, a rising sophomore defenseman at the University of Minnesota, and Frederik Andersen, a goaltender who will start for Frolunda of the Swedish league next season.