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Senators Watch: Karlsson demotion best for young defenseman's development

It will be extremely difficult for Erik Karlsson - not to mention his accountant - to accept, but someday he’ll probably realize being sent to the minors in his rookie season was the best thing for his career.

In a move that surprised no one, the Senators shipped their first round choice in the 2008 draft to the Binghamton Senators of the American League yesterday. But don’t expect him to be a minor-leaguer for long. Sources close to the situation maintain that if the Senators decide not to use him this season – which is highly likely – he’ll almost certainly be headed back to Sweden to play for Frolunda.

He’ll certainly make a lot more money in Sweden than the $65,000 (Cdn.) he’ll earn in Binghamton this season. Had Karlsson stayed in Ottawa, he would have earned $787,500 (U.S.) as a rookie.

But money isn’t the only factor here. By playing in Binghamton and Frolunda, Karlsson will be in an environment where he can be more of a factor, perhaps even a dominant player. That will do wonders for his wavering confidence, not to mention the chance to shine at the World Junior Championship with Team Sweden.

A slower pace of games and more practice time in Sweden will also allow Karlsson to add the bulk that he so desperately needs to play at the NHL level. Whether it’s the AHL or Sweden, Karlsson will be playing in one of the best two leagues outside the NHL against mature competition and that will do wonders for his development.

And as has been pointed out countless times before, no player has ever had his development compromised by being brought along at a slower pace. But the NHL’s scrap heap is chock full of players whose careers were ruined by being rushed into situations for which they weren’t prepared.

Chances are, Karlsson won’t be called up again this season because if he plays one more game, it will count toward the first year of his entry-level contract. If he stays at nine games played, the contract will slide to next season and continue for the next three. As far as an accrued season for the purpose of unrestricted free agency is concerned, Karlsson would have to play 40 games in the NHL to have this season count toward free agency.

This article also appeared in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.

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