After a long, well-publicized disagreement between Mikael Wikstrand and Senators management, it appears as though Mikael Wikstrand will be playing in Swedish for the foreseeable future.
As posted to the Senators website:
"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," said Senators general manager Bryan Murray. "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 was expected to play in a Senators uniform this season -- whether it was Ottawa or Binghamton -- after he signed his entry level deal two seasons ago and spent last year in Sweden. He got injured early in the first game of the Senators rookie tournament and flew back to Sweden just a little later. The Senators decided to suspend Wikstrand, with Bryan Murray offering a quote that was along the lines of: the only way Wikstrand will be playing hockey in Sweden is in beer league. Wikstrand then disclosed that his brother was very ill and wanted to be home with his family - an admirable reason for a young player with a lot of pressure on his shoulders - but given that the Senators had paid a signing bonus and "built their team" around him, management was unwilling to budge.
The end result? Wikstrand will be able to play in Sweden for the remainder of the season instead of forgoing an entire development year -- a good move seeing as neither player nor team was benefitting from the current situation -- and the Senators will retain his rights if and when Wikstrand does decide to play North American hockey in the future. The Silver Seven team rated Wikstrand as the Senators 10th best prospect under the age of 25 this past year, and his numbers in Sweden were excellent before this bump in the road. Given all the injuries and poor depth play from the Senators bottom-four defensemen, an NHL-ready blueliner would be welcomed and here's hoping that we see Wikstrand in North America at some point when he's ready.
I also want to make a quick note that I hope everything is okay with Wikstrand's family, as it's always a scary situation when illnesses happen and we don't want to make any assumptions because we lack a ton of contextual information. As pointed out, homesickness can be very debilitating in some cases and making light of a potential mental health concern is something we should always be mindful not to do.
Update by Ross: Patrik (@Zeb_Habs) the European correspondent for Habs EOTP was good enough to find the news release from Färjestad and translate some quotes for us.
You can find the Färjestad news release here, with a video featuring Wikstrand and the team's GM, Håkan Loob. Some translated Wikstrand quotes:
"It goes fast in hockey, things can change, this is my lucky day."
"I have got good news before which has also been put out fast."
"There were lots of meetings, finally a deal is done, and it feels fantastic."
It's a decent sign that he's not saying anything against the team publicly. Also, check out that beard he's grown! He's come a long way since his fresh-faced draft year.