The Carl Soderberg Saga continues to take its twists and turns, with yesterday being the wildest day yet. The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation blocked Soderberg’s transfer to the NHL yesterday after a meeting in Stockholm, insisting that he fulfill the remainder of this year’s SEL contract (until May 15th) by playing in the upcoming World Championships.
Mattias Ek, my email pal from Expressen.se, insisted to me earlier this week that this was the SIHF’s plan all along, contradicting reports from American media that the SIHF probably wouldn’t block it, that Soderberg to the Bruins was a done deal, and that Soderberg would be in Boston by this weekend. Looks like reporters overseas may do a bit more homework, but that’s neither here nor there.
Ek’s latest article in Expressen confirms recent Tweets by Dominic Tiano (who has been an ace in his coverage): Soderberg has told the SIHF that he has no interest in playing for Sweden in the World Championships.
From the article linked above:
“Carl Soderberg has declared himself or by the agent that he is not interested in playing in the World Cup,” says Tre Kronor general manager Tommy Boustedt. “Par (Mårts) talked to him last week and I’ve even seen the document which Carl has written and where it says that he does not want to play in the World Cup.”
Boustedt goes on to explain why they dismissed the transfer, saying that Swedish rules dictate that existing contracts run until May 15th, meaning Soderberg’s 2012-2013 deal with the Swedish Elite League is still valid for another month. The SIHF insists that this isn’t about the Soderberg case being special, but is about enforcing the rules for all players in similar situations. (If I misinterpreted the part about contract length, feel free to let me know).
When asked by Ek, Boustedt wouldn’t say whether or not Soderberg will be banned from Tre Kronor competition if he comes to Boston anyways, but did say “but definitely he breaks the rules. It’s that simple.”
Boustedt went on to insist that the ruling isn’t about Soderberg and is “sad” for him, but “at the same time our board has a responsibility to Swedish ice hockey because there’s something called precedent. It can get all dams to crack unless rules are followed,” i.e. changing the ruling once can open up the floodgates.
Paraphrasing the rest of the Google Translated article:
On whether or not Soderberg can still change his mind and play in the World Championships: “It’s more a question for him to answer than for us. But right now he has declared that he would not play. He has signed with the NHL. You can’t take on a player who says that he doesn’t want to play.” -Boustedt
On where the NHL stands on the matter: “Sweden is in negotiations with the NHL on a new NHL (transfer agreement) contract and neither the NHL or we want the negotiations to fail. Sweden is largest supplier of NHL players outside of North America and they want to have a good cooperation with us and we also believe in cooperation.” -Boustedt
On what happens next: “I suspect that Boston would like to proceed with this and we do not expect the matter been resolved, but we are awaiting what happens.” -Boustedt
So there you have it. My prediction? The SIHF backpedals by the end of this weekend, and Soderberg ends up being allowed to come here after all. The SIHF is already losing the battle of public opinion, as Erik Ecce shared a poll with me on Twitter where nearly 82% of Swedish respondents said the SIHF was wrong to block Soderberg’s deal, and has lost the player, as Ecce and others reported that Soderberg officially said he won’t play for Tre Kronor Friday afternoon.
The SIHF has nothing to gain here: they don’t have the support of Swedish hockey fans and they won’t have Soderberg in the line-up in Stockholm. My guess is that the Bill Daly and the NHL reach a gentlemen’s agreement of sorts with the SIHF: allow this transfer, and in the next agreement, we’ll include a clause that all players must honor existing contracts through May 15th. The SIHF will prevent the dam from bursting, so to speak, and the Bruins and Soderberg will get the outcome they want.
But hey, that’s just my opinion, and is 100% speculation on my part.
I reached out to Mattias again after yesterday’s news broke, and here’s what he had to say in an email:
“Yes, we knew this could happen and it did. Soderberg himself hasn’t said anything yet (as of Friday morning) nor his agents, other than that the NHL might reject the transfer to Bruins as well. It’s unfortunate for Soderberg to end up in this mess. A couple of months ago he was happy to play for Team Sweden in the upcoming Worlds, but the situation changed when Boston started discussing the move to the NHL already this season. If Soderberg would jump to the Bruins, ignoring the Swedish Ice Hockey Association, he would be banned from taking part in international tournaments in the future. I’m not sure he would risk that.”
So there you have it. This soap opera certainly isn’t over, but it gets weirder and weirder by the day.
Disclaimer: All quotes from Expressen.se were translated using Google Translate, so take that into consideration. I didn’t change any of them, except adding punctuation and correcting syntax when necessary. Same for Mattias’ email; the only things changed in that were punctuation and capitalization. For the paraphrasing, I took the translation and simplified it into better English, all while trying to keep the integrity of the original quote. Maybe I should just take a Swedish language lesson…