On May 12th, 2021, Tampa Bay Lightning dipped into the European free agent market to sign Simon Ryfors. The 23-year-old has thus far spent the entirety of his professional career playing for Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League, although a future in the NHL now awaits the Stockholm-born left wing. So, why have the Bolts acted quickly to bring in Ryfors? Well, let’s take a look at the 23-year-old’s development over the last few years.
Putting Pen to Paper on a One-Year Deal
Although Ryfors only has a one-year contract, it allows him to show that he can successfully transition from the SHL. In principle, the deal is also a two-way contract, meaning that his salary is dependent on the league in which he plays. At the time of writing, it’s unclear whether the 23-year-old will get an opportunity in the NHL or if he’ll end up playing for the Bolts’ affiliate team, Syracuse Crunch, in the American Hockey League. In the short term, more playing opportunities will likely serve Ryfors well, but he’ll need to hit the ground running because of the length of his contract.
To an extent, Ryfors future is somewhat in the hands of the Bolts’ ability to solve their salary cap problems. It speaks volumes about Tampa Bay Lightning’s ongoing issues with the wage structure that they’ve had to manipulate the rules for the playoffs. As the playoffs don’t have a salary cap, the Bolts have reintroduced Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos back into their line-up. However, while this approach may work in the short-term, it certainly isn’t a viable long-term solution. That said, this clever workaround gives Tampa Bay Lightning a good chance of winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. As of May 18th, the Bolts are priced at 6.5 in NHL betting odds to win the trophy in 2020-21.
Breaking Through in 2020-21
Ryfors’ rise to prominence couldn’t have come at a better time for the 23-year-old or Tampa Bay Lightning. According to Raw Charge, the Bolts could lose five of their top nine forwards at the end of the campaign. If this comes to fruition, Ryfors could play as a rotation option for top-level forwards like Kucherov and Stamkos. While there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the team’s future roster for 2021-22, there’s a chance that the Swedish left-wing could play himself into contention if he impresses during the training camp.
As touched on above, Tampa Bay Lightning acted swiftly to recruit Ryfors as an unrestricted free agent. Because of his recent form, this comes as no surprise. In 2018-19, the 23-year-old recorded three goals and ten assists in 51 matches for Rogle BK. He showed steady improvements the following year, registering six goals and 12 assists, before breaking through in 2020-21. In 51 games, Ryfors bagged 25 goals and 20 assists, giving a total goal involvement of 45.
Encouraging Recent Development
Ryfors has established himself as a clinical player in the Swedish Hockey League, and now he faces the challenge of replicating that form in the NHL. Although he may have to go through the AHL before being given a top-level opportunity, another year of development won’t hurt. In fact, it could be the making of the promising Swedish pla