- James Murphy, Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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Swedish star forward Carl Soderberg and the Boston Bruins reached an agreement on a multiyear contract Tuesday, and his release from his Swedish team, Linkoping, also has been finalized, a source confirmed.
According to the source, the only thing left to be done as of Tuesday afternoon was for the Swedish Ice Hockey Association to approve Soderberg's transfer to the Bruins and the NHL. Once that happens, according to the source, as long as Soderberg plays in a regular-season game he will be eligible to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs because the Bruins -- who acquired him in exchange for goalie Hannu Toivonen in the summer of 2007 -- already owned his rights and had him on their reserve list.
Bruins president Cam Neely said things were "looking good" for Soderberg joining the Bruins as long as the Swedish Ice Hockey Association signs off on the transfer. He said he planned on giving the 27-year-old a shot to prove himself in the NHL this season and potentially play a role in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"I think we'd like to try him on the wing first and see if he's comfortable there," Neely said Tuesday afternoon on Boston sports radio station 98.5 the Sports Hub. "Obviously, playing center at this level is not as easy as it may appear, with coverage down low and both corners. Understanding that part of the game takes some time. Who knows how quick a study he'll be?"
Since trading for Soderberg, the Bruins have tried a number of times to convince the 6-foot-3, 210-pound forward to come to the NHL and play for them, but Soderberg elected to stay in Europe. As recently as last summer, a Bruins source told ESPNBoston.com that he was unsure if Soderberg would ever play in the NHL.
Soderberg has had his best season yet in the Swedish Elite League -- 31 goals and 60 points in 54 games. The Bruins now will be able to add some much-needed size and scoring to their forward corps.
Neely said he likes Soderberg's skill set, though he has never seen him play in person, but how big of a contributor he will be will depend on how quickly he picks up the American game, which is played with more physicality and on smaller ice surfaces than European hockey.
"He's played against men in the Swedish elite league and has had success doing it," Neely said. "It's just a matter of getting adjusted to the North American style -- bigger ice surface, less contact [in Europe]. But he's a big body. He protects the puck well. He skates well. He's got a good shot. But we have to temper this a little bit if he does get over here based on getting adjusted to this style of game."
Soderberg was selected 49th overall in the second round of the 2004 NHL entry draft. He has played the past two seasons with Linkoping after playing the previous four in Malmo.
9dScott Burnside and Craig Custance