The Pittsburgh Penguins signed 22-year old Swedish defenseman Lukas Bengtsson earlier this summer, it seemed like a great thing. Though a bit on the small side, the young player distinguished himself in his home country's top league as a great skating, puck moving defenseman.
Lately, one little detail has been noticed and is sticking in the craw of Pens fans. The great website General Fanager (citing themselves) reports that Bengtsson has a "European Assignment Clause" in his two year NHL entry level contract. Meaning if the Pens want to send him to the minors, he has option to go back to play in Europe instead of riding the bus and making a $70k salary. This has lead to a seeming growing belief or perception among Penguins fans (at least something I've heard a little) that Bengtsson would be bolting back if/when he doesn't make the NHL team.
However, that's not what the best evidence says. The latest indactor is a Swedish article which roughly translated, part of it says:
What do you think of your chances to pinch an NHL place directly after the big camp?
- We shall see. I do of course all to take a seat, it's the attitude you have to have.
It remains to see if Luke gets a Penguin this autumn. But whether he succeeds right away or if it is delayed, the goal is super clear.
- Sometime I'll be up there and play.
This confirms what DK on Pittsburgh Sports reporter Jason Mackey reported on 7/1 after development camp. They're behind the pay-wall but here's the biggest quote [emphasis added].
"I feel like I took my game to a higher level toward the end of last season," Bengtsson told me. "I want to keep going with that and take that with me to this side of the world, whether I’m in Wilkes-Barre or Pittsburgh."
This actually stopped me dead in our interview. I was surprised to hear him bring up Pittsburgh on his own. I followed by asking if he thought Pittsburgh is a realistic possibility.
"I want to think that," Bengtsson said. "I want to give everything I have to take a spot, of course. I’m going to practice as hard as I can and take tips from the coaches on what I need to work on over the summer."
So, unless something changes, it doesn't much look like Bengtsson is on the first flight to Sweden if he doesn't make the NHL team. Which is a good thing, since with 6 NHL defensemen on one-way contracts, plus Derrick Pouliot, barring an injury or really spectacular training camp it doesn't much look like Bengtsson has a path to the NHL.
Just wanted to put this information out there, since we're seeing some rumblings and consternation about the out-clause. From comments in Swedish and English it seems Bengtsson understands his journey to the NHL will likely include having to prove himself in the AHL first.
(S/O to Pensburgh commenter Jake Honoosic for the link to Sweden)