There won’t be an NHL contract coming this year for Melker Karlsson. The former San Jose Sharks forward has decided to return to Sweden, signing with Skelleftea AIK in the SHL for the rest of the 2020-21 campaign. Karlsson had spent the last six seasons in San Jose but became an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Now 30, Karlsson is one of the European free agent success stories in the NHL, able to make the transition from SHL to NHL in 2014. Signed away from Skelleftea by the Sharks, he managed 13 goals and 24 points in his rookie season and never really looked back. In his second year in North America, he went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals with San Jose, scoring five goals in their long playoff run. He would be on the ice in their next three postseason appearances as well, providing reliable play in the bottom-six and some secondary scoring.
With the job market shrinking for bottom-six veteran players though, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Karlsson is going to stay in Sweden for the year. His return certainly doesn’t mean that the NHL is a thing of the past for his career, but it does mean another free agent is off the market. Karlsson’s name will surely be brought up again next offseason as a potential piece to bring back, once things have started to get back to normal.