Lias Andersson appears ready to continue his hockey journey in Sweden. The player and HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League are working towards securing a loan for the 2020-21 season, sources tell Blueshirt Banter.
The Rangers loaned Andersson to his boyhood club in January following their falling out in which Andersson abruptly departed North America following his demotion to the AHL. Andersson regained form with HV71, registering seven goals and five assists in 15 games.
Both player and club would like to build off of that success. HV71 has told Andersson that it envisions him anchoring the top line next season, a source tells Blueshirt Banter.
It is important to clarify that no final decisions have been made by either party. Furthermore, because Andersson is still under contract for the 2020-21 season, the New York Rangers ultimately control where he plays and would have to willingly loan him to HV71. Of course, the Rangers trading Andersson to a different NHL team this summer would also alter plans.
Reached for comment, HV71 General Manager Johan Hult told Blueshirt Banter, “Lias Andersson is under contract with Rangers so I have no right to comment on anything around him.”
Andersson’s agent, Jarrett Bousquet of Titan Sports Management, did not respond to requests for comment.
Despite Andersson’s struggles and the deteriorating relationship that culminated in Andersson requesting a trade, the Rangers have not completely given up all hope of a future for him in New York. On some level, they still believe in him as a player and they have been underwhelmed by trade market offerings. One would believe that the team’s preferred scenario would be for Andersson to come into training camp and then win a bottom-six roster spot Or, at least, dominate a stone’s throw away in Hartford in October. The Rangers will do their due diligence on that front.
But the relationship is currently very fragile and perhaps even beyond repair. Forcing Andersson back to North America against his wishes would not be conducive to getting the best out of him and could result in him yet again refusing to report. Conversely, a strong year of development as a top player for one of Sweden’s best teams would, if not set him up for future success with the Rangers, then at least go a long way in increasing his value on the trade market.
It’s also possible that COVID-19 could play a part in Andersson’s fate. The NHL’s timeline for beginning the 2020-21 season is unclear, and the immediate future of the AHL, which relies heavily on ticket revenue, is even less certain. Meanwhile, the Swedish Hockey League has the green light to begin the season as scheduled in September. If for no other reason, the SHL’s relative stability for next season may be cause for loaning Andersson to HV71. With so many unknowns and multiple months before hockey resumes, the Rangers may opt to not make any decisions just yet.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article indicated that former HV71 forward Linus Sandinwas the team’s top center in 2019-20. It was actually Linus Froberg who averaged the most minutes at center for HV71.