One week ago, we named Kris Versteeg among the five players still floating around in unrestricted free agency who could still make an impact in the NHL next season. But it appears Versteeg is going to try his hand overseas instead of waiting for an NHL club to come calling.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, it’s expected that Versteeg, 30, will be signing a deal this weekend to join the Swiss NLA’s SC Bern. While there are no reported terms for the deal quite yet, it’s likely Versteeg is signing a one-year deal to play in Bern with the chance to see a different type of hockey and maybe, finally, find a permanent home for an entire season. Versteeg has played for six teams in the past six seasons, making stops in Toronto, Philadelphia, Florida, Chicago, Carolina and Los Angeles.
However, even if Versteeg is choosing to make the move as a way to see some of the world and try his hand at playing in Switzerland, signing overseas is a rather shocking move considering Versteeg could have almost certainly landed himself an NHL deal for this coming season.
Though he wasn’t one of the most sought after free agents, Versteeg has been a steady contributor throughout his career. This past season, which was split between Carolina and Los Angeles, Versteeg scored 15 goals and 38 points in 77 games. He hasn’t scored 20-plus goals in four years, but he’s still a consistent contributor and has registered 131 goals and 313 points in 550 games.
Versteeg’s signing in the Swiss league is even more confounding if you think about the possibility for him to latch on in the NHL on a professional tryout deal. Last season, players such as Tomas Fleischmann, Tyler Kennedy and Lee Stempniak signed professional tryout deals. The latter turned his chance to turn some heads in camp into a deal with the New Jersey Devils, which resulted in a 19-goal, 52-point campaign and a subsequent two-year, $5-million deal with the Hurricanes this off-season.
However, Versteeg may have simply been saving himself from having to go through the training camp tryouts in favor of knowing where he’ll be suiting up next season. And if he’s on a one-year deal, he can turn a good season in the NLA into a contract in the NHL come the 2017-18 off-season, much like Cory Conacher did with the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier in the summer.
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