Erik Karlsson on return to Ottawa: ‘It’s going to be different and weird’

Erik Karlsson on return to Ottawa: ‘It’s going to be different and weird’

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Erik Karlsson tells a small group of reporters waiting near his locker that the only topic they really want to discuss — his impending return to Ottawa as a member of the San Jose Sharks later this week — is off limits.

“When I go up there, I’ll talk about it,” the former Senators defenceman says politely. “I won’t talk about it now.”

But pressed gently about what will no doubt be a raucous welcome Saturday afternoon in the nation’s capital, Karlsson briefly opens up.

“Going back to Ottawa will be special,” the 28-year-old shared Monday following practice at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center. “It’s going to be different and weird.

“We’ll see what type of emotions there will be when the day comes.”

There are sure to be plenty.

Traded to San Jose at the start of training camp in an eight-player blockbuster deal that brought an end to months-long speculation about the two-time Norris Trophy winner’s future, Karlsson was a fan favourite in Ottawa for the better part of a decade.

“It’s been a big adjustment,” he said of relocating to northern California. “It’s taking some time, it’s still taking some time, but I’ve been enjoying my time. I’ve been getting as much help as I possibly can.

“There’s nowhere else to go but up. I’m looking forward to that. I’m not the kind of guy who dwells on the past and looks back on ‘what ifs?”’

The same probably can’t be said for a large number of Senators fans.

The 15th overall pick in the 2008 draft went from skinny unknown teenager to superstar in Ottawa, registering 126 goals and 392 assists for 518 points in 627 regular-season games.

Karlsson added 37 points in 48 playoff contests, including 18 on an injured foot and ankle — surgery was eventually required — during the Senators’ magical run to the 2017 Eastern Conference final that ended in a heartbreaking Game 7 double overtime loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“(Karlsson) was attached deeply to that community and that team,” San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer said. “(He) really felt for most of the time there that he was going to spend his whole career there.”

But things quickly unravelled on and off the ice.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk issued a since-rescinded threat last December that he might move the franchise if ticket sales didn’t improve, while rumours surrounding Karlsson’s future swirled ahead of February’s trade deadline as the club tumbled down the standings.

The Ottawa captain wound up staying put for the time being, but tragedy struck in March when Karlsson and his wife Melinda announced their first child, a son they named Axel, was stillborn.

After the club’s miserable season finally came to an end, Karlsson’s wife accused the fiancee of then-teammate Mike Hoffman of cyberbullying. Hoffman was subsequently traded.

Management was adamant throughout it would offer Karlsson a new contract on July 1 — he was, and still is, set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer — but revealed after dealing the Swede that the decision to start a rebuild was made in February.

While the young Senators have been a pleasant surprise at times this season thanks to an exciting, offensive-minded approach, negative stories away from the action have persisted since Karlsson left town.

In one instance, a group of players were surreptitiously videotaped bad-mouthing an assistant coach inside an Uber, while Melnyk made the bombshell announcement last week that he’s suing his business partner over a development deal aimed at bringing a new arena downtown.

Karlsson didn’t go any further Monday when talking about his former team or what might be coming his way later this week, but he was emotional in his farewell to Ottawa immediately after the trade.

DeBoer expects something similar on Saturday.

“You just want to kind of get through it,” he said. “Once it’s over with, it’s almost like closure.”

Following some early struggles in San Jose, Karlsson has two goals and 13 assists in 24 games. With a shooting percentage of 2.9 (well below his career average of 6.8) accompanied by an even-strength shot differential of 59.32 per cent heading into Tuesday’s game in Buffalo, a breakout could be on the horizon for the slick defenceman.

“He creates a lot of looks that not many guys can,” Sharks centre Logan Couture said. “The biggest thing is finding lanes for him to pass to you.”

Karlsson will suit up with San Jose for the first time in Canada when the Sharks visit Toronto on Wednesday before Saturday’s matinee at Canadian Tire Centre — five years to the day since close friend and fellow former Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson returned to Ottawa after signing with Detroit.

“I’m excited to move forward,” Karlsson said. “I feel great, body feels great. The game is starting to take form. I haven’t really worried too much about the individual parts.

“We’re trying to build something here for the remainder of the season. I’m excited about that part.”

His new team full of outgoing veteran characters like Joe Thornton and Brent Burns has also provided an escape in the wake of a trying year.

“This is my work, this is what I do,” Karlsson said. “It’s nice to come into the rink every day and everybody else is normal. You kind of forget about things for a while.

“I depend on hockey a lot — not only in my professional life, but my personal life.”

—-

Follow ↕JClipperton—CP on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

Alberta reported an additional 1,980 cases of COVID-19 Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer adds 37th death from COVID-19, active cases drop

Alberta Health identified an additional 1,980 cases of the virus province-wide

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)
FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Travellers, who are not affected by new quarantine rules, arrive at Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ottawa will create a new digital platform to help in processing immigration applications more quickly and efficiently after COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a digital immigration system, the immigration department said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process… Continue reading

A man on a skateboard and a young woman pass large letters spelling out UBC at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on November 22, 2015. The federal government is writing off more than $200 million in outstanding student loan payments that officials will never be able to collect. Recently released spending documents show the government won't collect $203.5 million in debts from 34,240 students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan

VANCOUVER — A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing is set to start… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $25 million Lotto max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $25 million jackpot… Continue reading

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
States scale back vaccine orders as interest in shots wanes

MADISON, Wis. — States asked the federal government this week to withhold… Continue reading

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas talks with his players during a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match against Mexico's Cruz Azul at Azteca stadium in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Fernando Llano
Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Most Read