The locker that used to feature the name “Tomas Kundratek” had a different label Tuesday. It was the name of a player long forgotten: Mattias Sjogren.
The big, Swedish center who couldn’t make the Washington Capitals’ opening night roster out of training camp bolted for his home country in late November. He had been playing for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League and decided to exercise an out-clause in his contract.
“It’s probably a mistake,” general manager George McPhee said at the time. “He needs to develop here. He wasn’t prepared to make the commitment to do so.”
Now he’s back, recalled by the Caps on Tuesday. He’s set to participate in practice Wednesday and is eligible to play in the playoffs. It was a move for depth purposes, and Sjogren is likely to be a practice player or “black ace” for the Caps as they prepare for the Bruins.
He cannot play for the Bears the rest of this season, so he’ll skate with the Caps and be available to play if enough injuries occur. Sjogren’s departure earlier this season coincided with Dale Hunter’s hire, though agent Ritch Winter said at the time that would not play a factor in the 24-year-old’s decision.
A Swedish news agency reported earlier this month that Sjogren, who had been playing for Farjestad in the Swedish Elite League, wanted to return to the Caps. Given that McPhee said in late November he would “probably not” welcome Sjogren back, this comes as a surprise.
“I guess he got impatient and decided to go home. If you’re going to quit on us, you might as well go,” McPhee said Nov. 29 in comments that also included calling Winter by the name “Rico Winters.”
Winter, when reached via email, declined comment.
McPhee argued that Sjogren was given a chance to earn an NHL roster spot in camp but that the Caps could not promise anything.
“Mattias wasn’t given much of an opportunity. I think this is just simply the standard disconnect between general manager and coach. George signed him, George liked him, and it appears after training camp that [Bruce] Boudreau had a different view,” Winter said. “That happens. And it was hard to evaluate, I think, at training camp what his skills were. He didn’t really get that much opportunity to play.”
Sjogren had three goals, six assists and a minus-9 rating in 28 games for Farjestad this season.