Karlsson plans to head home

Karlsson plans to head home
Erik Karlsson after he joined other locked out Ottawa Senators and NHL players at the Bell Sensplex for drills and a scrimmage. (Wayne Cuddington/Ottawa Citizen)

The path is seemingly clear for Erik Karlsson to go back home to Sweden and receive the red carpet treatment, playing for as long as the National Hockey League lockout lasts.

Karlsson wants to return to Frolunda, where he was a star for two seasons before going on to even greater fame here with the Ottawa Senators. Frolunda team officials want him there. The Senators no doubt want to see their 22-year-old Norris Trophy-winning defenceman playing in one of the world’s top circuits until the squabble between NHL owners and players is resolved.

And now that Sweden’s competition authority has ruled that the Swedish Elite League’s initial stance to not accept locked out NHL players is illegal, there are no hurdles keeping Karlsson from making the move.

Except, of course, for the not-so-insignificant financial matter of insuring Karlsson, who signed a new seven-year, $45.5 million deal with the Senators in June.

“They know I want to come home and I’ve been talking to them since the summer and now it’s just a matter of getting a solution done and making it work for everyone,” Karlsson said Friday following a workout at the Bell Sensplex. “I don’t want to put them in debt or anything. I want to make them a better team if I come. I don’t want it to be unfair for anyone.”

As is the case with Jason Spezza, who will leave Ottawa for Switzerland early next week and the start of a lockout stay with the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers, it’s insurance, not a salary, that is the biggest expense.

Frolunda, which is also the former home of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, has felt the effects of the downturn in the world economy. According to Karlsson, attendance is in the range of 6,000 per game. If he returned to the city, though, the numbers figure to jump significantly.

“It would just make it all simple,” said Karlsson. “Moving back home, I have a place back home. I know everyone around there, I work out there every summer and I know the guys. It wouldn’t be too much travel and I just think it would suit me real well.”

Karlsson played in Frolunda for two seasons, scoring five goals and five assists in 45 games during the 2008-09 season, when he was also a star for Sweden’s world junior team. If the lockout continues, Karlsson may be in position to help win the league title. Alfredsson did just that when he returned to Frolunda during the 2004-2005 lockout.

“There may not be another time that I have a chance to play there again,” Karlsson said. “Just right here, right now, and if I can take that opportunity, I will.”

The Swedish Elite League had originally said it would only sign players who were willing to commit to a full season, but according to Per Karlsson (no relation), the senior counsel of the country’s competition authority, that position “can be likened to a cartel.”

Accordingly, a Swedish signing spree is expected soon. Karlsson says it only makes sense for Swedish players to return home.

“I think they (made) the right choice. There has been a lot of pressure from everyone and now it’s up to the teams to see if they’re willing to take on players or not. I’m going to stay here (in Ottawa) for at least a week or so and get everything organized.”

While Karlsson is trying to figure out all the details about going home, a large crew of Senators Swedish prospects will be on their way south next week — to Binghamton of the American Hockey League. Forwards Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad and Andre Petersson, along with goaltender Robin Lehner and defenceman Fredrik Claesson will all be at the opening of Binghamton’s training camp next Thursday.

“Silfverberg came back (from Sweden) yesterday and he was looking forward to coming over here,” said Karlsson..”It might do the guys good. They’re going to have a good team there. A lot of players from up (in Ottawa) are going to go down there and play. It’s not a bad thing for them going down and starting the season there.”

kwarren@ottawacitizen.com
twitter@Citizenkwarren

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