Sens sign Karlsson

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:15 PM ET

As reported in today's Ottawa Sun, the Senators have reached agreement with defenceman Erik Karlsson on an entry level contract. He was the club's top pick in the NHL entry draft last season.

Karlsson, 18 (he turns 19 at the end of the month), was picked 15th overall last summer. He completed his second season with the Frolunda HC Indians of the Swedish elite league this past season with five goals and five assists in 45 games.

Karlsson played for Sweden at the world junior championships here in Ottawa in December and January and was picked as the tournament's top defenceman. He tied for the lead in defencemen scoring with two goals and seven assists in six games.

Size is an issue for Karlsson. He's listed at 5-11 and 165 pounds and both might be exaggerations.

"Without a doubt," said Senators GM Bryan Murray, on a conference call from Switzerland where's he's attending the world championships. "His head and hands are terrific, but the question is can he handle the every day traffic in the NHL?"

Murray said he spoke to Bengt Gustafsson, the Frolunda coach, who said Karlsson played well in the last couple of months of the Indians' season.

"Based on that, I think there's a good chance (he could play in the NHL next season)," said Murray. "Certainly he'll address a need for us if he can play right away."

Karlsson said he won't know if he can make the NHL club until he gets some first-hand experience against NHL competition.

"It's a hard question to answer. I'll go over there and do the best I can...if it's not enough, I'll have to improve somewhere else."

He said he's been working hard on improving his size and strength since the Indians' season ended.

"I've added a few pounds, but I can't say how many. I'm a lot stronger now. The coach I train with said I'm getting stronger every day since the end of the season," said Karlsson.

Murray said the deal with Karlsson allows the Senators to put him in the AHL or send him back to Sweden if he doesn't make the NHL club.

The Senators already have a log jam on the blue line with seven defencemen signed for next season (not including Christoph Schubert, who's signed for next year and played mostly at forward or Brendan Bell, who will be a restricted free agent).


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