In September 2015, it looked as though Mikael Wikstrand’s career was at an impasse. The 22-year-old defender had mysteriously left Ottawa’s training camp, returned to his native Sweden and was told by then-Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray that the only was his career was going to continue was if he was playing defense for a beer league team.
Nine months later, Wikstrand has signed a four-year contract with one of the SHL’s top teams. It was announced Monday that Wikstrand has inked a four-year extension with Farjestad BK which will see the young blueliner continue his career in the SHL for the foreseeable future. The Senators have not commented on the contract as of this writing.
Wikstrand’s extension with Farjestad is another strange twist in a story that caught many by surprise at the beginning of the campaign and remains a head-scratcher, if only in the sense that Wikstrand was in Ottawa one day and gone the next.
His bizarre season began when he disappeared from the Senators’ training camp in late-September to be closer to his brother, who had fallen ill. While Wikstrand’s departure alone isn’t incredibly peculiar, it was made strange by the fact he failed to tell anyone — not Murray, not his teammates, not even his agent. Overnight, Wikstrand had packed his things and left. The next day, when Wikstrand was located, he was torn into by Murray. The Senators GM said Wikstrand could “go back and be a grocery clerk or play in the beer leagues, but he (cannot) play (professional) hockey in any shape or form if he doesn’t play for the Ottawa organization.” Subsequently, Wikstrand was suspended by the Senators.
Later, Wikstrand admitted to Swedish outlet Varmlands Folkblad that his decision to leave without saying anything was “really bad,” but said he wanted to keep his personal matters to himself. And as the weeks and months wore on and it became more apparent that Wikstrand wouldn’t be returning to the NHL, Ottawa relented and loaned him to Farjestad BK for the remainder of the 2015-16 season. It was said that playing in North America was not in the immediate plans for Wikstrand.
“In an effort to further monitor his development, we have agreed to loan Mikael to Färjestad for the remainder of the season,” Murray said in January. “We will retain his North American rights and should he change his outlook on working towards playing in the National Hockey League, we will be open to discussing a potential return at an appropriate time in the future.”
It doesn’t appear that Wikstrand’s “potential return” will be coming anytime soon, however. The four-year deal will mean the once highly praised prospect probably won’t be heading back to North America before the 2020-21 season. That said, Wikstrand would be entering his prime once his four-year contract in Farjestad is up. Maybe he shows willingness to jet to North America at that time and the Senators consider bringing him back into the organization. After all, he was projected to be an AHL regular in 2015-16 and a young defenseman who Murray thought could potentially stick with the big club.
This past season, Wikstrand scored one goal and nine points in 17 games with Farjestad, adding another three points in five post-season games.