Chicago Blackhawks: Michael Frolik Opens the Exodus to Europe
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Chicago Blackhawks forward Michael Frolik became the first Blackhawks player to sign with a European club, according to a post by Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. Frolik signed with Chomutov of the Czech Extraglia League and will begin play with his new team when it's season starts Tuesday.
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews is currently heading up informal practice sessions over at Johnny's Ice House. It may not be long before most of the old gang is skating on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Some of Chicago's bigger names have indicated that they may skate for European teams if the NHL lockout continues. Frolik, who is staying closer to home in joining Chomutov, is only the first of what could be a landslide of Blackhawks to play elsewhere.
Hastening some decisions may be a ruling against the Swedish Elite League's decision to require all players to sign for the full duration of the season. On Friday, Swedish Competition Authority ruled the requirement illegal, though the league has appealed that decision.
Viktor Stalberg and Niklas Hjalmarsson are returning to their native Sweden and may wind up in the SEL if Friday's ruling stands. The opening of his home league may also change Marcus Kruger's mind about starting the season in Rockford, Chicago's AHL affiliate.
So far, the exodus has been mostly European players. If the lockout drags on, however, don't be surprised to see Toews and other top Hawks looking for opportunities in leagues like the Kontinental Hockey League.
The KHL has made some special provisions to accommodate an influx of some NHL players. The Russian teams of the league can only add one foreign player along with two NHL players from Russia. The other teams in the league can add three NHL players regardless of their country of origin.
Players like Toews and Patrick Kane may end up on a line together, just not in Chicago for awhile. Patrick Sharp is another player who could be considering a season in Europe.
Both sides seem dug in for what could be a lengthy work stoppage. It will only be a matter of time before the players begin exploring other options.
The 24-year-old Frolik may not be making the $2.1 million he would have in Chicago, but he'll be in his home country. He helped bring the Czech Republic a bronze medal at this past summer's World Championships.
Could fellow Czech Rostislav Olesz, another highly-paid 'Hawks forward, be far behind? GM Stan Bowman can only hope that Olesz heads overseas and doesn't return to the NHL.
Blackhawks fans who were hoping to welcome the NHL season with the Training Camp Festival this weekend had to make other plans. In a few weeks, those plans may have to include finding a league outside of North America to follow some of their favorite 'Hawks stars.
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