Swedish defenseman Gabriel Carlsson is returning home as the Hershey Bears announced on Friday that the 2023 Calder Cup champion has signed a three-year contract with the SHL’s Vaxjo Lakers HC.
Carlsson, a restricted free agent this offseason, was non-tendered by the Washington Capitals and made a free agent in late June.
The big blueliner has spent the last seven seasons in North America, splitting his time between the AHL and NHL. He got into 59 regular season games for the Bears last year and also played top pair minutes during the team’s postseason run to the Calder Cup. He saw six games at the NHL level with the Caps.
Best of luck to Calder Cup champion Gabriel Carlsson, who is heading back to his native Sweden after signing a three-year deal with Vaxjo Lakers HC! pic.twitter.com/Nwfi8aqlbE
— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) July 28, 2023
In those 59 AHL games, Carlsson tallied 15 points (1g, 14a). He added an additional two points in the AHL playoffs which matched his point output with the Caps in six games.
Carlsson was signed by the Caps to a one-year, two-way deal last July. With the Bears fully reloading for another run at a championship, Carlsson’s new vet exempt player status at the AHL level made him tough to keep around despite his good play.
The AHL has a rule where of the 18 skaters in a team’s gameday lineup, only six can be veterans who have played in 260 or more career professional games. Carlsson crossed over that 260-game mark last season.
Hershey won’t be pressed for extra defenders moving forward as they’ve already signed or re-signed Aaron Ness, Chase Priskie, Jake Massie, Nick Leivermann, Benton Maass, Logan Day, Dylan McIlrath, and Michael Kim this summer. Those names will join Vincent Iorio, Lucas Johansen, and Hardy Haman Aktell on the backend.
Haman Aktell was signed by the Caps from the Lakers, where Carlsson is now headed. Next season will be Carlsson’s first playing in the SHL since he got into 40 games for Linkopings HC during the 2016-17 campaign. He was teammates with former Caps forward Andrew Gordon and new Bears forward Garrett Roe during that season.
Headline photo: Tori Hartman / Hershey Bears
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