The 31-year-old goalie had not played since Dec. 16, 2019, for the Ottawa Senators because of post-concussion syndrome.
“My post-concussion symptoms and neck problems make it impossible for me to continue as a professional goalie,” Nilsson said on Instagram. “Obviously not the way I wanted my career to end, but I got to achieve my dream as a kid to play in the NHL and represent my home country Sweden on the world stage. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me along the way and supported me through the ups and downs of my career.”
A third-round pick (No. 62) by the New York Islanders in the 2009 NHL Draft, Nilsson was 59-74-15 with a 3.06 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and six shutouts in 161 NHL games (144 starts). He never played in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.
“Also, a big thank you to the New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators organizations who gave me an opportunity to put on their jersey, as well as Ak Bars Kazan (in the Kontinental Hockey League),” Nilsson said. “I will always hold with me the memories of playing for those teams. A special thank you to my hometown team Lulea Hockey, who supported me from a young kid to a pro.”
Nilsson helped Sweden win the 2018 IIHF World Championship with a 1.09 GAA, a tournament-high .954 save percentage and three shutouts. He had a rainbow flag on the back of his mask while playing for the Sabres in 2016-17 after he was inspired by the Oilers’ efforts to help the LGBT community the previous season, when they were the first NHL team to use Pride Tape during their annual team Skills Competition.
“We brought awareness last year in Edmonton,” Nilsson told the Buffalo News on Dec. 4, 2016. “This summer, I thought why not be the first goalie to put that on the helmet and raise some awareness for that?”
Nilsson was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning with forward Marian Gaborik by the Senators on Dec. 27 for forward Cedric Paquette, defenseman Braydon Coburn and a second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.