The entire Mike Hoffman situation last summer was regrettable for all involved and forced the Ottawa Senators’ hand. However, since the initial trade out of Ottawa, it has only gotten worse for the Senators. First, the team received an underwhelming return back for the perennial 20-goal scorer; the San Jose Sharks sent capable, but overpaid forward Mikkel Boedker, prospect defenseman Julius Bergman, and a sixth-round pick in exchange for Hoffman, Cody Donaghey, and a fifth-round pick. Then, they watched as the Sharks flipped Hoffman the same day to the Florida Panthers for second-, fourth-, and fifth-round picks, a much more desirable return. Over the course of this season, the Senators have been disappointed by Bergman, the default centerpiece of the Hoffman package, who has just six points through 33 games with the AHL’s Belleville Senators. Now, it seems they are about to lose Bergman entirely, just one year after acquiring him.
Sport Bladet, a reputable Swedish news source, reports that Bergman has agreed in principal on a contract to return to his former Swedish Hockey League club, Frolunda HC. Seeing as the NHL season is not yet over, Bergman cannot officially agree to any such contract. However, the 23-year-old defender is at the end of his entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this off-season. The Senators can only issue a qualifying offer to retain his rights, but can do nothing to stop him from signing in Sweden if he so chooses.
For all of his struggles this season, Bergman is still considered a promising prospect. A second-round pick out of Frolunda in 2014, Bergman made the jump overseas immediately to play with the OHL’s London Knights. In his one junior season, he scored 13 goals and added 29 assists as a top-pair defenseman for the Knights. He spent the next three seasons with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda, recording 61 total points, highlighted by a 30-point campaign in 2016-17 that also included a dominant postseason performance. However, that production has dried up since his arrival in the Senators’ organization. An offensive defenseman who suddenly isn’t scoring, Bergman hasn’t given the team any reason to rush him to the NHL, yet the Sport Bladet article cites his frustration at not getting any NHL opportunity as one of the reasons for his return to Sweden.
It is still possible that Bergman decides to stay with the Senators instead of joining Frolunda. It is also possible that he spends a year or two in Sweden and wants to return as a more polished product. However, there is also a strong possibility that these next few months in the AHL are the last we see of Bergman in North America, adding insult to injury for a poor trade made in a difficult situation by the Senators.