The Bear Cave

July 28, 2009 7:55 AM

Axelsson Heads Home After Eleven Seasons in Boston

The question marks surrounding PJ Axelsson finally have a concrete answer. On Monday afternoon, the announcement was broken that the former Boston Bruins' winger has opted to return to his native country of Sweden. Axelsson signed a four-year deal with Frolunda, ending his tenure with the Black and Gold.

Oddly enough, PJ Axelsson actually began his hockey career with Frolunda, suiting up for the Indians from 1993-97. During that time, Axelsson elected to enter the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, earning a look from the Boston Bruins with the 177th overall pick. Following the 1996-97 season in Sweden, the 22-year old decided to cross the pond, hoping to make an impact with the team that drafted him.

Axelsson didn't take long to fit in with the Bruins, as he netted his first career goal in just his fifth game with the club. The rookie went on to score eight goals and 19 assists that season, while playing in all 82 regular season games, as well as six contests during the postseason. Axelsson saw a minor drop in his production in his sophomore season, before rebounding to light the lamp ten times during the 1999-2000 campaign. The native of Kungalv, Sweden typically recorded between 20 and 30 points during his first five years with the club, leading to a breakout year in 2002-03. That season, Axelsson scored a career-high 17 goals and 36 points, while tying his career-high with 19 assists, despite being out of the lineup for 16 games. The final season before the lockout saw PJ return to his typical production of six goals and 14 assists in 68 tilts.

During the year of the lockout, Axelsson went back home to play for Frolunda. In 45 games, he had eight goals, nine assists, and a whopping 95 penalty minutes. The 95 penalty minutes are remarkable for Axelsson, who returned to North America with a mere four in the 2005-06 season with the Bruins. The 34-year old spent each of the four seasons following the lockout in Boston, finishing this part of his career with 103 goals, 184 assists, 287 points, and 276 penalty minutes in 797 career NHL games during the regular season. Axelsson also played in 54 postseason contests with the B's, picking up four goals, three assists, and 24 penalty minutes. The 797 career games put Axelsson in tenth place in Bruins' history, and fourth among left wingers.

Prior to his signing in Sweden, PJ Axelsson had spent the most time in Boston among players currently on the team. With Axelsson out of the picture, that honor now belongs to Patrice Bergeron, who has worn the Spoked "B" for five seasons, 303 regular season games, and 18 playoff games. Interestingly enough, Bergeron and Tim Thomas are the only members of the current club who played with the Bruins prior to the lockout. Bergeron was in the lineup for 71 games during his rookie season of 2003-04, while Thomas appeared in four regular season games a year earlier. During the lockout, Bergeron played in the AHL with Providence, while Thomas spent his season with Jokerit in Finland.

Despite his dedication to the organization, Axelsson wasn't expected to be back with the Bruins for the 2009-10 season. The team was approaching the salary cap, while looking to go in another direction. The original expectation had the forward signing somewhere else in the NHL with a multi-year deal, but nothing came together.

The Boston Bruins are now down to seven free agents remaining. Manny Fernandez and Stephane Yelle are both still unrestricted, but will eventually be headed for new clubs for the upcoming season. Phil Kessel is the lone NHL restricted free agent for Boston, and his situation is anybody's guess at this point, as he and the team are a long way from agreeing on a contract. Wacey Rabbit, Ned Lukacevic, and Kevin Regan are restricted free agents at the AHL level, while Carl Soderberg is restricted after spending the past five seasons in his native country of Sweden.

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