CBA is expiring. Probably see lots of guys start signing deals overseas prematurely.
This is sound logic. My experience is that a lot of players over time have signed with a DEL team in the summer, only to drop out at the last minute due to options in North America.
Could be the case here.
Still, there is some precedents about players playing in Germany and then becoming regular NHLers. Not much, but there is some. The most successful case has been Robidas of the Dallas Stars. Boy was he good here! The path wasn't all-too different from Katic's thus far. Besides, I think a lot of these kids just think "Tim Thomas was in Europe first, Brian Rafalski was in Europe first. It can happen for me too." without thinking about which league exactly he's going to.
To be honest though, I'm almost surprised that Berlin would sign Katic. They usually go for a slightly higher profile player, but no doubt about it: They are the non-plus ultra of the DEL. They've won 4 of the last 5 championships. GM Peter John Lee sure knows what he's doing!