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HC Lev Poprad loses two players as playoffs slip out of reach

January 28, 2012

Vladimir Mihálik (from

KHL team HC Lev Poprad began the season with great hope. As the League’s first team outside of a former Soviet Union republic, the Slovak club was eager to bring yet more hockey and dynamic, new blood to the hockey scene in Slovakia. Alas, the team sits outside of the playoffs. And despite a win over Minsk, news broke today that two of the club’s best players, Tomáš Netík and Vladimir Mihálik, will be seeking greener pastures. Immediately.

Slovak blueliner Vladimir Mihálik is bound for Timra of the Swedish Elitserien. Czech forward Tomáš Netík is headed to Växjö. Surely, transfers mid-season, and between completely different leagues, are much more prevalent in European hockey than in the NHL. There was significant interest in both players. Still, it’s a disappointing sign for Poprad. There’s a little over a month left in the regular season. But the hope is both players will be able to return to Lev next year.

Mihálik is still under contract through next year, and ideally the teams would like him to gain playoff experience in Sweden, and bring that newfound wisdom to Lev.

Netík intends on negotiating a new contract with Lev in the summer, and will make them his top choice. Similarly, he plans on assisting Växjö in their post-season march. He recognizes he’s in a much better bargaining position now than last year, coming off a disappointing season with CSKA.

It’s an interesting proposition, and it will be curious how it plays how: have your top players take a shot at post-season glory in Sweden. It’s risky, it’s spontaneous (in a way) but it has the potential to yield great rewards. The more fluid transfer and loan system in Europe enables teams to grant players more mobility, without necessarily losing them outright. Wouldn’t any NHL team love the services of John Tavares for just the post-season?

Of course, one would question the degree of trust and commitment between player and club. Wouldn’t HC Lev want their players in-house? Will it create a divide in the locker room? My first guess is, “well, not necessarily.” Allowing the players to gain the exposure they need, while saving them for a better year (ie, next year) could be a wise play. The all-out monogamy of NHL teams and their players–it could glean a thing or two from this.

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