Mario Kempe declined the Flyers contract offer and signed a two year contract with Djurgården instead.
"I've always liked Djurgården and to play there has been a dream of mine. It's the all time best hockey club in Sweden. I feel like I'm going to fit in well in the type of game they play."
Kempe isn't thinking about the NHL right now.
"It's not something I think about anymore. I focus on doing well in Elitserien."
The quick change of mind came as a surprise as Kempe had been talking about how eager he is to join the Flyers organization before. His willingness to play in the AHL was well documented as well as his desire to play the North American game in the smaller rinks. He has often said how he enjoys the North American game more than the European and how the fast paced game in the smaller rinks fits his own game better. One of his quotes that sticks out to me was when he said his dream is to play in the NHL and he would be closer to his dream if he chose to play in the AHL instead of Sweden. I also asked him about his willingness to go to North America a couple weeks before the Flyers offered him the contract and he said he had an on-going dialogue with the Flyers and that both parties were interested in having him play in North America next season.
So why change his mind when the offer he was eagerly waiting for, was finally on the table? As the Flyers went on in their deep playoff run, Kempe realized how good that team is and how hard it would be for him to crack that lineup. He would've been willing to start the season in the AHL, but it seems that he wouldn't have been ready to spend a whole year there.
Obviously it is possible that he simply had second thoughts and decided that Elitserien is better for his long term development than the AHL would be. That's his official reasoning.
In the end, it could all be about money. If Kempe expected to be stuck in the AHL, he wouldn't be making big bucks. At the very same moment, "the all time greatest hockey club in Sweden" enters the stage with their own offer. We can be sure the money is better than it would be in the AHL.
Kempe is known to be a player who puts his own career above everything else. When he's unhappy with ice time, he leaves the team. We've seen it happen a couple times before, whether it's Rögle or the Phantoms. When he chooses his team as a free agent, he wants a team that can offer him an offensive role with big minutes. It's very likely that Djurgården could give him better guarantees on that than the Flyers could.
Choosing Djurgården over the Flyers offer seems like a combination of a lot of reasons. Djurgården is the safe choice for his career. But will it take him closer to his NHL dream? It remains to be seen, but turning down an NHL offer is often a red flag for all general managers in the NHL.
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