UPDATE, MAY 4, 2020: The Sharks announced on Tuesday that they have officially signed Handemark to a $792,500, one-year entry-level contract.
“Fredrik is a well-rounded player who can play in all situations and ranks as one of the top faceoff centers in Europe dating back to his time in juniors,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. “He is a powerful skater with high character and leadership qualities having been the captain for the Malmo Redhawks the past three seasons and has played well the last few years at the National level. We are happy to have him join our organization.”
The San Jose Swede Squad may be gaining a new member.
According to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, highly-touted Swedish forward Fredrik Handemark has agreed to terms with the San Jose Sharks. The club has not confirmed this report.
In Early March, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in his 31 Thoughts column that both the Sharks and the Detroit Red Wings were in talks with Handemark, the captain of the Malmo Redhawks of the SHL. Friedman didn’t offer any other details, though both teams have exactly five Swedish players on their roster and aggressive European scouting departments.
Assuming the report is true (Aftonbladet is generally reliable with news about Swedish players, and often players are more honest with their native news organizations than they are in North America), it should surprise no one that the Sharks have once again scored a highly sought-after European free agent. The Sharks stay competitive through these European free agent signings and staying competitive makes them attractive to high-end European free agents — a perfect self-perpetuating cycle.
The Sharks’ slump this year might even make them more attractive: the organization has a history of bouncing back quickly (hello, 2015-16) and an exciting free agent has a chance to become a star while they do so (I miss you, 2016 Joonas Donskoi). Sounds like a big time win-win.
So who is Handemark?
At 26-years-old (27 in August), Handemark is a little older, even taking into consideration his status as a European free agent. He’s signed through 2020-21 with the Redhawks, having served as their captain since 2017. This season, his 38 points (14 goals, 24 assists) led the team and ranked tenth overall in the SHL.
The other factor that likely intrigues the Sharks is his size: the left-handed center is a hulking 6-foot-4 and 209 pounds.
The riskier aspect of his play is two-fold. First, though this represented a break-out year for the forward, his history with the Redhawks is slightly less impressive:
To me — albeit having not watched this player or team — I can see that this career year comes after a down year, where Handemark only notched six goals. Adding in the factor of his age represents a worst-case scenario of a player who had a bounce-back year and will begin to decline. More likely, looking at his history of relative consistency over the last few years, he may be able to continue this level of play, or return to something just below it for the next few seasons.
The other issue is that he’ll be used to international ice, having played his entire hockey career in Swedish leagues. Going into his age 27 season and the emphasis this organization puts on playing the “right way,” he poses a risk of not adapting to the North American game — or at the very least, not doing it on the Sharks’ timeline.
At $900,000 for one year, per Aftonbladet, the risk feels minimal, anyway, and the offense-starved Sharks are looking for any potential cheap solution they can get.