P.J. Axelsson is returning to Frolunda, his former club in Sweden. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
P.J. Axelsson, who appeared in 797 NHL games (all with the Bruins), has signed a four-year deal with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League, his former club. The signing closes the door on Axelsson's Bruin career, which included 103 goals and 184 assists. Axelsson, the team's seventh-round pick in 1995, established himself as one of the league's best defensive forwards.
"When you look at Bruins history, the classic Bruins, it's lunchpail hockey," said Neil Abbott, Axelsson's agent. "P.J. was a Bruin through and through, true to the core. With his hard work and determination, he gave it his all. I never saw any client work harder and have more fun doing it than P.J. He loved wearing that jersey."
Abbott said he had discussions with several teams in each conference about three-year deals for Axelsson. But those deals were dependent on those teams clearing cap space, which the clubs had trouble shedding. Axelsson then considered one-year offers. But after weighing different factors such as moving from Boston, escrow concerns, and his growing family (Siw, Axelsson's wife, is expecting their second child in October), the career Bruin opted to return to his old team in Sweden. Abbott said the Bruins did not make an offer.
Last season, the 34-year-old Axelsson scored six goals and 24 assists in 75 games. Axelsson, always favored for his versatility, skated on every line, killed penalties, and saw time on the first power-play unit. Axelsson, who served as an alternate captain, was well-liked by his coaches and teammates and was one of the most vocal players in the dressing room.
Axelsson was part of one of the most controversial plays in team history in the first round of the 1997-98 playoffs. In overtime of Game 3 against Washington, Axelsson's game-winning goal was rubbed out by referee Paul Devorski because linemate Tim Taylor had part of his left skate in the crease. The Capitals would win the series.
Axelsson played for seven coaches: Pat Burns, Mike Keenan, Robbie Ftorek, Mike O'Connell, Mike Sullivan, Dave Lewis, and Claude Julien. Under Burns, Axelsson found his niche as a shutdown left wing alongside Taylor and Rob DiMaio.
Axelsson, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2006, is under consideration for Team Sweden duties in Vancouver. Abbott said Axelsson would like to play four or five more years, with a return to the NHL not ruled out.
"He's sad to be leaving Boston. No question," Abbott said. "He's been here for a long time, his whole career. He's very appreciative of the Boston fans and sends his thanks."