SUNRISE, FLA. — Just when he was starting to get over the flu, Erik Karlsson took a turn for the worse yesterday.
Travelling westbound, it’s otherwise known as a left off the 401 and on to Interstate 81.
The Senators demoted their No. 1 prospect to their AHL farm team in Binghamton after GM Bryan Murray received clarification from the league that, in doing so, they would not lose a year on Karlsson’s contract.
Should he play one more game with the big team this season — and a recall at some point is definitely a possibility — then the defenceman’s deal would be kickstarted.
Murray had previously believed the only way the team wouldn’t lose a year on Karlsson contract was if the player returned to Sweden for another year of development.
Karlsson, who missed Monday’s practice with a bug, but was on the ice with the Senators yesterday, did not speak with the media after learning of his demotion.
Murray said the 19-year-old was “very emotional” upon hearing the news.
“The fact that he’s a European player, he can go to Binghamton and play and not trigger the contract,” Murray said. “We do get a slide, and that’s part of the reason, certainly, but a big part is just to let him play, become more important, hopefully be real effective on the power play and at some point make a determination if he can come back up and be a regular member here.
“He was quite emotional about it. I think every young player who gets a start in the NHL and at some point has to go down is not a happy camper. And we wouldn’t expect him to be. We’ll give him the day, and he can travel down (Wednesday) and we’ll make arrangements to be in the lineup, hopefully, Friday night.”
The fact that Filip Kuba will return tonight from a groin injury that has kept him out of the lineup for all but the first game of the season played a part in the decision, as did the emergence of Matt Carkner into a full-time NHLer and the improved play of Alex Picard.
“We believe that (Karlsson) is going to be a very, very good offensive player in the league,” said Murray. “We wanted to see him play games, to start the year here, and I think as a series of games went on, the last couple in particular, I thought he was quite good.
“But I’ve talked to the coaches in that, are we going to be able to play this young player a lot as we go forward and win, and obviously it’s easier if you have experience, have veterans playing. We’ve got (Kuba) coming back into the lineup, and we have more assurance that would be the case.
“We’re doing it for the term here that Erik just gets a chance to gain that experience, get exposure to the grind of playing pro hockey, being competitive every night, being important on the team, where of course he can’t have the same importance here with the veterans that we have, be important down there, be a key guy on the power play, and this is a process that most young players have to go through. We’re hoping when we bring him back up, whenever that might be, that he will be a better player. I believe he’ll be a better player.”
Asked why he preferred to have Karlsson in Binghamton than with his Elite league team in his home country, Murray said Karlsson could still return to Sweden at some point.
“We know in Europe that the skill development part of it will happen,” said Murray. “The bigger ice surface, puck control, doing things with the puck for Erik, that would be beneficial.
“The physical part of it, the travel, the grind of playing pro hockey, the quickness required on the smaller ice surface in Binghamton, all of those things are the reasons for now that we’re doing it.”
Murray added that, should he still be in the AHL in December, Karlsson could play for Sweden in the world junior championship if he wanted.
“We would let that happen,” said Murray.
“He’s going to go to Binghamton” he added, confirming Karlsson plans on reporting. “Erik was kind of caught off-guard I think. He doesn’t read all the papers, so he got caught a little bit here not knowing what the meeting was going to be about, so he was quite emotional. But I’ve talked to his agent, they’re going to address it with him as well. I think they understand the reason we’re doing this. I suspect there will be nothing other than co-operation and the fact he will go down and play.”