CALGARY, AB -- Since Miikka Kiprusoff took over the goaltending duties for the Calgary Flames in 2003-04, the organization has been searching high and low for a dependable caddy to help relieve their workhorse starting netminder for more than a couple games a season.
That search seemingly came to end at the beginning of the 2009-10 campaign when Henrik Karlsson was acquired from the San Jose Sharks for a sixth round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
The signing was by no means a guarantee the netminder would be backing up Kiprusoff. The Tumba, Sweden native had zero NHL experience, playing his entire professional career in the Swedish Elite League and it wasn't clear if he could adapt the North American style quickly enough to win the job from the likes of Leland Irving and Matt Keetley.
However, as training camp progressed, it became clear the 27 year-old was by far the most capable of the trio to fill the goaltending hole. He was given his first start on Oct. 22 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and walked away with a 6-2 victory.
He kept rolling from there. He had shaky moments but looked poised and calm for his majority of time in net. Overall, Karlsson posted a 4-5-6 record with a .908 save percentage and a 2.58 GAA.
"I've had a couple of tough games and some I was happy with so overall I'm happy," he said last week. "I think it was a good first year."
In addition to sharpening his skills in net, Karlsson became attached to Calgary during his one-year tenure in the city.
"I hope to back here. I want to stay in this organization for a long time," he stated. "My feeling is that they might be interested in that but you never know. I definitely want to come back so we'll see what happens."
Karlsson's intuition is spot-on. In his post-season address, acting general manager Jay Feaster made it perfectly clear how he felt about Karlsson coming back next year.
"Clearly, we have to get Karlsson re-signed. He's an unrestricted free agent. But I'm pretty confident we'll be able to do that after speaking with him. He wants to be back. We want him back."
His teammates also expressed a desire to see the lanky Swede back in the locker room come September.
"He's played well when he's gotten the opportunity this whole year," Jay Bouwmeester said. "He's done a real good job ... He's a good goalie. He works hard in practices and even though he's had limited chances to play, I think he's gotten better through the year."
While the location isn't clear just yet, Karlsson is excited to get back into the swing of things next season.
"Coming into next year, I'm a lot more confident and believe in myself because I know I can play here and win games. Hopefully I get a couple of more games next year and then go from there."