One of the most bizarre stories of the season came before the puck was even dropped for opening night. In September, Ottawa prospect Mikael Wikstrand left training camp without telling anyone from the Senators and was subsequently suspended by the team.
The situation between Wikstrand and the Senators got messy after he left. The team suspended him on Sept. 25 and Ottawa GM Bryan Murray said Wikstrand could “go back and be a grocery clerk or play in the beer leagues.” Wikstrand took to Twitter to say he only left because he was trying to be closer to a family member who had fallen ill.
As the season has worn on, Wikstrand’s status with the Senators has taken a backseat to the happenings on the ice, but there’s finally a conclusion between Ottawa and the 22-year-old defenseman. Wednesday, the Senators announced that Wikstrand has been loaned to the SHL’s Farjestad BK for the remainder of the season.
“After further conversations with both the player and his representatives, it appears that playing hockey in North America is not a consideration for Mikael at any point in the immediate future,” Murray said in a statement. “In an effort to further monitor his development, we have agreed to loan Mikael to Färjestad for the remainder of the season. 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.”
Wikstrand spoke to media about the situation in October and said he wished to play in Sweden because his brother had been diagnosed with leukemia. He added that he didn’t know if or when he would be back in Ottawa because his brother’s situation “might take a month before everything is fine, it might take three years.”
“It was really bad of me (to not tell the Senators),” Wikstrand told Varmlands Folkblad’s Johan Ekberg in October. “I should have…told them why I wanted to play at home. But I'm a guy that keeps a lot of things for myself, keep it in the family. My agent did not know about it before.”
Loaning Wikstrand to Farjestad means he’ll be able to continue playing this season with the club that he began his campaign with. Before Senators training camp began, Wikstrand suited up in three games for Farjestad in Champions Hockey League action and managed one assist. Farjestad’s Champions League bid has since ended, as they lost in the Round of 32 to Lulea.
Wikstrand was drafted in the seventh-round, 196th overall, by the Senators in 2012, but he had developed into a player who could have potentially made the Ottawa roster out of training camp. Murray had told media that he wasn’t sure if Wikstrand would have needed seasoning in the AHL first, but said the defenseman looked good in limited action.
“He’s mobile enough,” Murray said of Wikstrand’s first outing at the rookie tournament. “He has a good head for the game, he sees the ice pretty well.”
Wikstrand’s loan to Farjestad is effective immediately. The SHL club has 21 games remaining in its season.