Ottawa Senators

Erik Karlsson ready to capitalize on Sharks' 'great chance' vs. Blues

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USATSI

Erik Karlsson ready to capitalize on Sharks' 'great chance' vs. Blues

SAN JOSE -- Having an eye on the Stanley Cup Final isn’t something that's come about recently for the Sharks. San Jose has been focused on hockey’s biggest stage since before the 2018-19 campaign even started, when the team acquired Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators.

Now, after a rollercoaster regular season, the two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman and his teammates are gearing up for a Western Conference final run. In talking to the press ahead of Game 1, Karlsson reflected on joining the team at the start of the season and how the Stanley Cup Final has always been in the team’s sights.

“Once I got traded here, I knew we had a great chance,” Karlsson told the press. “(They were a) great team already, for me to come into and kind of find my way. And here we are. We put in the work throughout the whole year and in these playoffs to get to this position.”

This isn’t EK65’s first trip to a conference final, of course. He and the Sens made it through seven games in 2017 before Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins knocked them out of the running for the Lord Stanley’s Cup. Karlsson admitted he can’t compare both conference final trips since the current one hasn’t happened yet. But he did acknowledge his level of confidence in San Jose is very high.

“I feel more confident, comfortable now than maybe I did then,” he said. “I think with Ottawa, it was a little unexpected. We weren’t looking that far ahead. Here, I think, this year, we’ve taken an aim at the Cup Final since Game 1. That’s our expectation.”

Karlsson’s season with Team Teal hasn’t been without its ups and downs. It took him a bit of time to get acclimated to San Jose after having only played with Ottawa during his professional career. Then came the mid-season injury that left him sidelined until the last game of the regular season. As the Sharks’ playoff run has continued, Karlsson’s level of play has only improved.

“Erik’s one of the best players in the game, look at the journey this year,” Sharks’ general manager Doug Wilson said. “He’s an important part of our team. He’s a difference-maker.”

Wilson was quick to point out that the Sharks are a “sum of their parts,” as opposed to relying on one single player. Karlsson is part of that winning equation.

“We’re going to win in different ways on different nights with different guys stepping up,” he said, “and I think that’s the beauty of our group.”

[RELATED: Sharks preparing to play more physical series vs. Blues]

There is still no indication as to how long Karlsson will play for San Jose. For the time being, the Sharks are focused on making their playoff run last even longer.

“For me, this is a privilege, and something when I got traded here that I wished for,” Karlsson said. “But there’s no guarantees. Everything that this team and this organization has shown me is that they’re willing to put in the work to get to where we want to go. And now we’re sitting here and have some work left to do.”

Erik Karlsson contract: How Sharks fan made pitch with song parody

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USATSI

Erik Karlsson contract: How Sharks fan made pitch with song parody

How do you convince one of the best hockey players in the world to stay with your favorite team? You could always follow Sharks fan Emily Hall’s lead.

Hall wrote and sang “Time Is Nigh,” a parody of Blondie’s 1980 hit “The Tide Is High,” centered on San Jose defenseman (and pending free agent) Erik Karlsson.

When Blondie came on while she was grocery shopping back in December -- in an aisle with teal gummy sharks and Swedish Fish, no less -- she had her inspiration.

“I’m like, (singing) ‘the tide is high … the time is nigh,’ and literally, that’s how it hits me,” Hall recalled in a phone interview with NBC Sports California on Wednesday. “I just hear a phrase, and it comes together … and it sometimes never leaves my head until I actually finish it.”

This was shortly after Karlsson walked out of a press scrum that began moments earlier with The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell telling him “the time is nigh” for his first game against his former team, the Ottawa Senators. Karlsson opened his press conference in Ottawa the next day with the same four words, and they were soon stuck in Hall’s head.

But Hall, a Berkeley resident who has parodied songs with a teal twist on her YouTube page for over a decade, knew that a clever turn of phrase could only go so far.

“I actually try to take a song that has a feel of what it is,” she said. “In the case of ‘The Tide Is High,’ that song is about longing.”

That’s a feeling familiar to anyone who’s held a boombox outside of a window, flipped cue cards on a doorstep, or mouthed “you complete me.” Hall employed all three iconic romantic-comedy tropes in her video, and for good reason.

Since Feb. 25, Karlsson has been eligible to sign an eight-year contract extension with the Sharks. The defenseman can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and, like a rom-com lead making their dramatic pitch, Sharks fans (including Hall) are smitten and don’t want to see him leave.

"He has a lot to offer, right? His skating ability is amazing, and he just seems to have a really good attitude on the ice,” Hall said. “There's something about his personality that seems to fit. But not only that, when he's top of his game and the Sharks are clicking, just look at we went through. That last part of December and part of January was amazing.”

Hall recorded “Time Is Nigh” at some point after that run, and shot the video with her husband on a dreary February weekend in San Jose, just before the NHL trade deadline. She uploaded the video to YouTube on Monday, as well as the song recording and its lyrics to the karaoke app Smule to encourage other Sharks fans to sing along.

At least one Karlsson has heard it. Melinda Karlsson, Erik’s wife, tweeted on Monday that she was a fan.

The Karlssons have some time to ruminate on Hall’s parody pitch, and however the Sharks try to top it.

[RELATED: Jones carries Sharks to win, point back of Flames in West]

In the meantime, Hall just wants him to get healthy. Karlsson has missed 13 of the Sharks’ last 18 games with a recurring groin injury, and Hall thinks they should rest him as much as possible prior to playing “a few games before the playoffs to get playoff-ready.”

Hall has followed this team since 1998, ever since she first attended a game on what was just her second date with her husband. With Karlsson in the fold, this San Jose team is as good as any she’s seen.

“I think the Sharks have a shot [at the Stanley Cup],” Hall said. “I do. I think this is the best roster we’ve ever had. … I think that we can beat Calgary. I think that we can beat Tampa, really.”

And if they do, Hall will have plenty to sing about.

Matt Duchene trade: What deal means for Sharks before NHL deadline

Matt Duchene trade: What deal means for Sharks before NHL deadline

The Sharks will see the newest member of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. 

Forward Matt Duchene, who the Blue Jackets acquired from the Ottawa Senators on Friday for a package centered on two prospects and two first-round picks, will suit up against San Jose on Saturday. 

Beyond the immediate implications for their next game, the Blue Jackets trading for Duchene has trade-deadline ramifications for the Sharks -- both good and bad. 

The good news for San Jose is that Duchene won't join a contender in the Western Conference. The Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets were among the teams linked to Duchene in the lead-up to the deadline. Friday's trade takes one of the best available forwards off the market, meaning those teams -- as well as the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights -- will have to look elsewhere for help up front. 

There are still plenty of top-flight forwards available. Duchene's now-former Senators teammate Mark Stone and current Blue Jackets teammate Artemi Panarin come to mind. Beyond them, players like Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds and New York Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello would figure to make up the next tier of forwards for contenders looking for help at the deadline. 

That's where the downside of Duchene's trade comes in for the Sharks, as the timing of the deal could price San Jose out of making an acquisition. 

As Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman noted earlier this week, the Sharks' lack of a first-round pick in the next two drafts "[limits] what they can do" at the deadline. Friedman figured trade values for players like Simmonds and Zuccarello would drop the longer Duchene, Panarin, and Stone were still on the market, and that would benefit Sharks general manager Doug Wilson as he reportedly looks to add a winger. 

Now, Duchene has a new home and Panarin might not even be on the move. The Blue Jackets reportedly are happy to hang on to the Russian winger in their playoff push, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

Those notions already seem to be affecting teams' asking prices. The Rangers are looking for "high picks or a high pick and a prospect" for Zuccarello, TSN's Darren Dreger reported on Friday.

The Sharks still have second-round picks in each of the next two drafts, but only 10 total selections in 2020 and 2021. Friedman reported on Tuesday that they're telling teams forward prospect Sasha Chmelevski isn't available, and defenseman Ryan Merkley is the only former first-rounder in San Jose's system after Josh Norris was included in the Erik Karlsson trade. 

[RELATED: Sharks were 'happy to olbige' Penguins with scuffles]

In other words, San Jose probably wouldn't be able to win any bidding wars ahead of the deadline, and Duchene's trade makes the prospect of one more likely. 

That's not necessarily a bad thing for the Sharks. They will enter Saturday's game against the Blue Jackets no more than three points back of the Flames for first place in the Pacific Division and the conference. 

But, the Sharks' rivals are still trying to improve, and matching any potential moves might've just gotten more difficult.