The Swiss season is over, as the NLA has decided to cancel the remainder of its season. However, that will give perennial contender EHC Biel-Bienne even more time to plan ahead for what they hope is an impact off-season. According to Swedish news source Hockey Sverige, the club plans to go after some impending NHL free agent defensemen. The trio specifically named are all Swedes and include the Anaheim Ducks’ Christian Djoos and Joel Persson and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Gustav Forsling.
Djoos, 25, was just recently traded to the Ducks by the Washington Capitals and is set to be a restricted free agent this summer. A former AHL standout, Djoos grew into a regular contributor for the Caps in the previous two seasons, but roster and salary cap pressure forced him back to the minors this year. However, since the trade to Anaheim he has played exclusively in the NHL, recording three points in nine games which is technically a career-high clip albeit in a small sample size. Given Djoos’ history and RFA status, he seems the least likely of the listed names to jump to Switzerland this summer.
Persson, 26, is an entirely different case, other than the fact that he too will be an RFA. Persson has no NHL history other than his 13 games this season with the Edmonton Oilers. An undrafted prospect who turned heads in the SHL, Persson signed with the Oilers back in 2018 but was loaned back to Sweden last season. He was extended and came over to suit up for the Oilers this year, but failed to impress and has spent the bulk of the season in the AHL. Persson was dealt to Anaheim for next to nothing – ECHL goaltender Angus Redmond and a 2022 conditional seventh-round pick – at the deadline and has not played for the Ducks yet. He could very well depart North America after a disappointing year, but may choose to head elsewhere rather than go back to Sweden. Biel could be an attractive option in this case.
Forsling, 23, is the youngest of the players named and is also the hardest to speculate on. After beginning his pro career with considerable NHL action in each of his first three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, the young defender has played exclusively in the AHL this season following an off-season trade to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are exceptionally deep on the blue line and that isn’t about to change. Heading into next season, Forsling will be eighth or ninth at best on the organization’s depth chart. As such, if the team opts to make him a qualifying offer, he could choose instead to depart North America and play a top role somewhere else. However, it’s fair to argue that remaining in the AHL may still be the better decision for his career. Of the players named, Forsling would be the least likely to stay with Biel long-term, but could produce the greatest immediate impact.
At this point, it is difficult to project that any of these three names will end up jumping to the NLA to play for Biel, especially given that all three are restricted free agents and that Djoos and Forsling have considerable NHL experience for their ages. However, if the top Swiss club pushes hard, potentially using this extended off-season to their advantage, they may be able to convince one of these three or another NHL free agent that a move to Biel to play a top pair role is the right call.