With the NHL lockout nearing its third week and little real progress being made, NHL players continue to explore various possibilities for keeping their skills fresh. For many younger players on the Coyotes, this will mean an extended stay in beautiful Portland, Maine playing for the Pirates. For many NHL players, though, the lure of the European leagues, particularly the KHL have been much stronger. Yesterday, Mikkel Boedker joined that group, signing a one-year contract with Rauman Lukko Oy of the Finnish Sm-Liiga.
According to the Rauman Lukko’s website, Boedker will be skating in Europe until the lockout ends. He will be joined with two other Danish players, the Islanders’ Frans Nielsen and the Stars’ Philip Larsen. Together Boedker, Nielsen, and Larsen represent half of the Danish players currently in the NHL.
It seems very unlikely that Boedker would choose to stay in the Finnish league if the lockout were to end (and the story seems to say that his contract will allow him to leave freely) so we don’t have to worry about him making threats a la Alex Ovechkin. Hopefully the opportunity will keep Boeds in shape so when and if the season starts again he will be ready. Although all NHL players are keeping in shape during the offseason its good that Boeds is going to be playing real games, as long as he remains uninjured. If you really start jonesing for hockey and you want to root for a Coyotes player you have another option too, provided you can get a SM-liiga feed.
So Boedker becomes the first Coyotes player to make the trip across the pond, although former 'Yote Gilbert Brule had a non-lockout related signing with the ZSC Lions of the Swiss league. As we discussed earlier, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is joining a host of Coyotes young players and prospects playing in Portland with the Pirates, making their games an almost must watch if you are jonesing for hockey and can afford AHL Live.
As for some of the other Desert Dogs, Shane Doan and Mike Smith remain in Phoenix right now practicing at the Ice Den with several other Coyotes players including Paul Bissonnette if you want to see some live action in the Valley. Rumors are that Keith Yandle has remained in Boston with his young family and is playing there (probably with some Bruins players - which doesn't mean he's imminently being traded regardless of what NESN reports).