Karlsson set to leave Jokerit
Defenceman hopes NHL season can still be salvaged
Erik Karlsson’s Finnish adventure will finish Saturday.
The Ottawa Senators defenceman has been playing for Helsinki-based Jokerit of the Finnish Elite League since the fall, when the National Hockey League imposed what is now a 104-day lockout.
The Norris Trophy-winning blueliner has decided to let his monthto-month contract expire and return to his native Sweden to wait out the NHL’s labour impasse, however.
In an email exchange Thursday morning, Jokerit general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen said the team enjoyed having Karlsson aboard for the past few months.
“Erik was excellent, we were very happy and it was a pleasure having him,” Kekäläinen said. “He will be missed. Good player and a great guy.”
Jokerit’s attendance is averaging 9,600 this season, which Kekäläinen said was “a lot higher than last year.”
“I am sure Erik has had an input in the improved figures.”
In a video posted on the team’s website Thursday, Karlsson said he hoped to put on one last good show for the home fans before packing his bags.
“I’ve been here for three months now and I think I really got settled in everywhere, and I’ve really enjoyed everything that’s come up out of this journey here,” he said. “I enjoyed the team a lot and obviously it’s tough, taking this decision of heading back home and waiting for what’s going to happen with the lockout, but right now that’s the best option for me.”
The diminutive defenceman is still holding out hope the NHL season will be salvaged in the next two weeks.
“They cancelled all the games through January 14th, so hopefully we’ll play the 15th,” he said. “That’s what everybody’s aiming for now. You know, you can only hope and pray that the season starts soon again.”
Karlsson has seven goals and 20 assists in 28 games for Jokerit, about the same points-per-game pace he set last season with the Senators.
He scored 19 goals and 58 assists in 78 games here, making him the runaway points leader among defencemen and propelling him to the Norris, which is handed out annually to the league’s top defenceman.