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Contract signed, Larsson ready for NHL challenge

by Mike G. Morreale /
To say Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson was excited when he learned a deal had been finalized with New Jersey Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello would be a bit of an understatement.
"He said it was the happiest day of his life," Larsson's Swedish agent, Claes Elefalk, told "He said to me, 'I've never been happier than this moment,' so he's flying right now in his mind."
It was Elefalk and Larsson's U.S.-based agent, J.P. Barry, who worked out the details of the three-year, entry-level contract that was finalized by Lamoriello on Thursday night and made public Friday afternoon.
The deal was consummated one day before the July 15 deadline for NHL teams to sign those European players still under contract overseas. Larsson had one more year left on a deal with his Swedish Elite League team, Skelleftea.
"We started the talks and negotiations right after the draft (on June 26) and have been speaking with each other up until the deadline," Elefalk said. "The negotiations were held in a professional manner as always with Lou Lamoriello, but we had our opinions about the contract and how we suggested it would be designed. So it has taken quite a time, but we're here now and everyone has agreed and Adam is very happy."
The stumbling block throughout the talks was the fact there were no performance-incentive bonuses included in the contract.
"I think Adam is a pro and I don't think having individual bonuses necessarily would have changed the way he approached his day-to-day affairs," Barry said. "But Adam understood the situation and the Devils' philosophy as a team. We had a lot of discussions about it, but he wanted to start his career."
Lamoriello has never signed a player to a contract that included performance-based royalties. While that's something both agents fought for, Lamoriello wasn't about to change his philosophy.
"It's our philosophy running up against Lou's 20-year track record of not providing individual performance bonuses," Barry said. "Lou listened … I've been negotiating with him for almost 15 years so we have a good relationship. But it came down to the fact he respectfully declined. He wasn't going to do individual bonuses because he felt it would ruin the room. So we had to advise our client at that time that he had a choice to sign now and get his career going or opt to resume this discussion next year, go home and continue his contract in Skelleftea."
Said Elefalk: "At the end of the day, Adam knows the bonus money is the business part of it. He's accepted this policy of the Devils and is focused to play."
Elefalk said it isn't often you find a European player of Larsson's age so willing and determined to make it big in the NHL in his draft year.
"There's an ongoing debate in Sweden about this," he said. "Many people, not necessarily the teams who want to keep them, but people in Sweden say you are better off if you mature in Sweden first and then when you peak, come over and play in NHL from Day 1 instead of going through the AHL. Others believe it doesn't matter and still others say if you want to be an NHL player, you better learn the game as early as possible in North America.
"It's differing opinions but Victor Hedman signed immediately (with the Tampa Bay Lightning) after the draft and went over. That was early, so Adam Larsson could also be one of the youngest Swedes to play in the NHL."
Hedman, who also played in the Swedish Elitserien before being taken No. 2 by the Lightning in 2009, was rated No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's list of European skaters entering the draft -- just like Larsson was.
"We are very thrilled for him and also excited about his own excitement about this whole thing," Elefalk said. "At his young age, it's rare that Swedes, and Europeans for that matter, sign at this early stage with the intent to immediately hop aboard and play in North America.
"Yes, it happens that players sign in the same summer they get drafted from Europe, but normally they kind of allow one year before they playing. But Adam wants to step in and play right away and I'm excited about that."
Larsson may not have as solid a grasp of the English language as Hedman did in his draft year, but he certainly oozes the same confidence and swagger of his fellow countryman. The youngest player on his team, he had 9 points and 41 penalty minutes in 37 regular-season games with Skelleftea this season and chipped in 4 assists and 12 penalty minutes in 17 playoff games. He also had a goal and 4 points in six games in the world junior championship in Buffalo, N.Y., in January.
"When you're this young and want to come over and play, already, that's determination," Elefalk said. "Back in early spring, way before he knew where he would be drafted and by whom, Adam said, 'Claus, I really feel I want to test my skills and challenge the NHL next year.' This has been something in his head for a long time, it wasn't just an idea this summer."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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