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In today’s world of free agency and trade deadline deals, it’s not often you find players in the NHL, or in any professional league for that matter, that spend their entire careers in one uniform. With the announcement of P.J. Axelsson’s new four-year contract with Swedish Elite League’s Frolunda Monday, the longest tenured Bruin’s NHL career comes to an unofficial end. P.J.’s career spanned 11 seasons, with seven different Bruins’ coaches and numerous Black and Gold memories.
“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.”
Anders Per-Johan Axelsson was drafted in the seventh round of the 1995 NHL draft at age 20. After four seasons with Frolunda, he joined Boston for the ’97-’98 season, appearing in every game of his rookie year. He played well, putting up an 8-19-27 scoring line. He quickly became one of Boston’s most versatile wingers and as strong a defensive-minded forward as you could find in the league. Early on, under coach Pat Burns, Axelsson emerged as a shutdown left winger, sharing ice time with linemates Tim Taylor and Rob DiMaio.
Perhaps the highlight of Axelsson’s playing career thus far didn’t come in a Bruins uniform however. In 2006, P.J. played a major role on Sweden’s Olympic hockey squad, winning the gold in surprising fashion over neighboring Finland.
It was never Axelsson’s offensive numbers that impressed the masses over the years (he never totaled more than 17 goals or 36 points in a season), but it was his selflessness and gritty style of play that made him a fan favorite amongst the Bruins faithful. Serving as an alternate captain this past season, “Axie” was very well-liked by his many coaches and teammates over the years, becoming more of a vocal leader as he grew into his veteran role.
Abbott said he had discussions with a handful of NHL teams about Axelsson’s services for the upcoming year, but due to salary cap constraints, the offers weren’t near a mark worth considering. According to Abbott, the Bruins were not among the teams who made an offer.
So, 103 goals, 184 assists, and 797 NHL games later, P.J. is going back home. At just 34, Axelsson hopes to play four or five more years according to his agent, and he hasn’t totally ruled out a return to the NHL at some point, given the right situation. So while a return of No. 11 can’t totally be ruled out, the funny-haired Swede’s career as a Bruin seemingly has come to its end, at least for now.
Best of luck to a consumate professional and respected Boston Bruin, P.J. Axelsson. As the B’s chapter of his career ends, another chapter begins.