It appears that Bryan Lerg will not be a ‘black ace’ for the duration of the San Jose Sharks playoff run. The pint-sized San Jose Barracuda captain signed a two-year deal with Rögle BK of the Swedish Hockey League Wednesday, beginning in the 2016–17 season. The new deal might be an explanation as to why Lerg was not among the players recalled to the practice squad last weekend after the Barracuda were eliminated from the playoffs.
The writing was on the wall for Lerg, who would have been an unrestricted free agent in July. With several incoming forward prospects expected to slide into the Barracuda lineup next season, there will be limited spots for seasoned AHL veterans.
The Livonia, Michigan native had a six-game cup of coffee with the big club early this season, but primarily spent the campaign in the AHL. Lerg’s 21 goals tied Nikolay Goldobin to lead the Barracuda, while 51 points were second to Ryan Carpenter. Both were his highest totals since the 2011–12 season and his 30 assists were a new career-high.
Lerg provided a rare feel-good moment at the end of a dismal 2014–15 Sharks season, scoring the late game-winning goal in his first NHL game as a then-29-year-old.
The decision to transfer overseas could eventually be a lucrative one for Lerg. He still could have an impact in the AHL, but his skating and determination make him the perfect type of player to put up big numbers in leagues like the SHL and NLA and prolong his career.
Rögle is still relatively new to the SHL and striving to find an identity. They are often passed up by incoming free agents from North America, so being able to land Lerg to a contract is a significant one for their franchise. His leadership should have a positive influence on their young roster, which is expected to include top prospects Alexander Nylander, Robin Kovacs, and Mathias From.