Sweden's Competition Authority has ruled that a league decision to ban NHL players from the country's Elitserien during the lockout is illegal, opening the way for an influx of players.
"The hockey league's decision can be likened to a cartel," Per Karlsson, senior counsel at the Competition Authority, said in a statement on Friday.
"The decision means that ice hockey clubs that are affiliated to Swedish Hockey AB (Elitserien) must decide themselves if they want to sign contracts with locked-out NHL players or not."
Although the league as a whole had decided to ban NHL players, individual clubs were secretly still keen on snapping up talent on short-term deals.
Dozens of NHL Swedes such as Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), Nicklas Backstrom (Washington Capitals) and the Sedin brothers Henrik and Daniel (Vancouver Canucks) could now return home during the lockout.
A league-wide lockout was imposed by the NHL at the weekend when the previous labor agreement expired with owners and players at odds over how to divide a $3.3-billion revenue pie.
This is the fourth NHL work stoppage in 20 years but despite previously allowing locked-out players to ply their trade in Sweden, the Elitserien had been the only European league to decide not to recruit NHL players during the dispute.