Sharks

Advantage of Erik Karlsson returning to Sharks' lineup before playoffs

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AP

Advantage of Erik Karlsson returning to Sharks' lineup before playoffs

SAN JOSE -- After weeks of mystery, the Sharks shined a light on Erik Karlsson’s injury status.

The defenseman revealed to reporters Friday there is a chance he could return to the lineup at the end of the regular season after being sidelined with another injury. But there also is a possibility that he won’t return until the Stanley Cup playoffs start, and he plans on being ready for them next month.

So, what are some of the advantages, and disadvantages, to getting EK65 back into the Sharks' lineup before the 2019 regular-season campaign ends?

For starters, there isn’t any need to rush him back. As fans and hockey viewers already have observed, Team Teal is able to win games in Karlsson’s absence.

Fellow Swedish defenseman Tim Heed has done an outstanding job filling in Karlsson’s spot on the blue line, tallying five points in the last five games in which he has played. Not to mention that San Jose has won all five of those games, even if it didn’t win all of them cleanly. (The Sharks' come-from-behind effort in Detroit was a grind, although they did pull out a W.)

All of this, in turn, takes pressure off the two-time Norris Trophy winner to return to the ice too quickly. While Karlsson previously revealed he doesn’t enjoy having to sit out, he said watching the team win makes him feel better about going through his rehab process.

There are, however, advantages to Karlsson returning before the playoffs start. Sure, he was able to bounce right back into action in his last return from injury back on Feb. 16 and tally an assist in the Sharks’ 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

However, there’s no guarantee Karlsson will bounce right back into action just as seamlessly. There also is the matter of reconfiguring the blue line and on special teams when he returns. If he gets paired back up with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, would the two be able to instantly find chemistry? What if Sharks coach Pete DeBoer sees the need to juggle up the D-pairs? These are the kinds of questions a team likely would want answered before a playoff series gets underway.

The Sharks will not rush Karlsson back unnecessarily. But if he was able to get a couple of games in before the season ends, when might that happen?

[RELATED: Sharks are first in the West, but there's still work to do]

If the defenseman’s condition greatly improves over the next couple of weeks, San Jose might try to get him into the lineup in the last week of the season when the competition -- the LA Kings, Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche – is a bit less extreme.

If Karlsson ends up being healthy enough to pencil in for San Jose’s home back-to-back against the Golden Knights and the Flames, that could be a better test for getting him playoff ready. However, rushing Karlsson back so he can participate in two heavy-hitting games also comes with the risk of him being hurt again. This is only a guess, but if he comes back before the regular season concludes, that last week might make the most sense.

For now, however, Karlsson will remain sidelined as he tries to get back to being 100 percent ready to help the Sharks make a deep playoff run. It’s just a matter of time before we see if he’ll take the ice before the regular season ends.

NHL expansion draft: How Sharks will be impacted by Seattle franchise

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AP

NHL expansion draft: How Sharks will be impacted by Seattle franchise

Editor's note: This week, NBC Sports California will look ahead to the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, at which time the Seattle franchise officially will join the league as its 32nd team. Every team in the league will be affected, as players from (nearly) every roster will be made available to Seattle for its inaugural roster. We begin with an explanation of the expansion draft rules.

Over the last two years, the Sharks have developed a budding rivalry with the Vegas Golden Knights, who joined the NHL as an expansion franchise prior to the 2017-18 season.

Two years from now, another expansion franchise -- this one in Seattle, Washington -- officially will join the league, and like Vegas, will slide right into the Pacific Division, with the Arizona Coyotes being displaced to the Central Division.

Before the currently unnamed Seattle franchise begins play in 2021-22, it has to acquire its inaugural roster by way of the expansion draft.

The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will operate under the same rules for Seattle as it did for the Golden Knights back in the summer of 2017. Seattle will select one player from each of the other teams in the league (excluding Vegas) for a grand total of 30. Specifically, those 30 players must include at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies.

Eventually, Seattle will whittle down those 30 players to a minimum of 20 under contract for the 2021-22 regular season, and that inaugural roster must have a cumulative salary that is between 60 and 100 percent of the 2020-21 salary cap's upper limit.

However, it's not as if Seattle can just handpick the best player from each roster. The other 30 teams can protect a limited number of their own players, making them ineligible for selection in the expansion draft.

Those teams have two options for protecting players: Either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or protect eight skaters (forwards or defensemen) and one goalie. Regardless of which option a team chooses, there are certain conditions it must abide by.
For instance, any player with a no-movement clause at the time of the expansion draft -- and who declines to waive that clause -- must be protected and will count toward their team's protected list. Additionally, all first- and second-year players, as well as all unsigned draft choices, are exempt from inclusion in the expansion draft, and won't count toward their team's protected list.

There are two sides to the protected/exempt coin, though. The other 30 teams can't simply scrape the bottom of their respective barrels and expose those remnants to the expansion draft. There are conditions that those teams must meet that ensure Seattle will receive legitimate NHL players, much like the Golden Knights did before making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their debut season.

Each of those 30 teams must expose at least one defensemen and at least two forwards who are a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played in at least 40 NHL games the prior season, or in at least 70 NHL games over the previous two seasons combined.

[RELATED: Sharks will miss Pavelski's leadership more than his goals]

Furthermore, those teams must also expose at least one goalie who is either under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent immediately prior to 2021-22. If a team elects to expose the latter option to the expansion draft, it must have already given that goalie a qualifying offer prior to submitting its protected list.

Lastly, any players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games heading into 2021-22, or who have been otherwise confirmed to have a career-threatening injury, cannot be exposed to the expansion draft unless approved by the league.

Traditionally, expansion franchises have taken a long time to find their footing in the NHL, but the Golden Knights bucked that trend and took the sports world by storm. Considering the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will have the exact same setup as the one that jumpstarted Vegas in 2017, it stands to reason that Seattle could do the same.

Why Peter DeBoer is confident Sharks can fill Joe Pavelski's scoring void

Why Peter DeBoer is confident Sharks can fill Joe Pavelski's scoring void

Joe Pavelski led the Sharks with 38 goals last season. That's 38 goals that now reside with the Dallas Stars.

It's not as if San Jose lacked for goal scoring this past year, having ranked second in the league with an average of 3.52 goals per game during the regular season. However, no Sharks player found the back of the net more often than Pavelski, meaning that if the Sharks are going to maintain or even surpass that offensive output next season, they're going to have to find those 38 goals elsewhere.

San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer touched on that very subject in a recent interview with NHL.com's Mike Zeisberger, in which he insisted that Pavelski's character will be tougher to replace than his goal-scoring.

"Look, it's hard to replace Pav's 38 goals," DeBoer conceded. "We scored a lot of goals last year and if we score a little bit less I don't think it will kill us. At least I hope it doesn't. The goals are one thing, but it's the leadership, the presence, the message that he would convey in the dressing room when times were tough. Those are the things that are harder to replace than his goals."

Part of the reason DeBoer is confident his team can adequately fill Pavelski's scoring void is due to the continued progression he's expecting from young players already on the roster.

"We've got to continue to hope that guys like Timo Meier can build on the season he had last year," DeBoer said. "Kevin Labanc too. I think Doug [Wilson] has done a great job of setting us up with young players in the pipeline we feel can create some offense."

Additionally, after Erik Karlsson was banged up throughout much of his debut season with the Sharks, DeBoer is hopeful the former Norris Trophy winner can have an even greater offensive impact moving forward after signing an eight-year contract in the offseason.

"When we had the opportunity to acquire Erik Karlsson last summer there was no hesitation in anyone's opinion to go forward on the possibility of doing that," DeBoer insisted. "Those are generational-type players and they rarely become available, if at all. It was a no-brainer to trade for him and it was a no-brainer to sign him. 

[RELATED: Why DeBoer credits Thornton for Sharks' historic power play]

"He's going to be a huge part of what we're doing going forward," DeBoer continued. "You take out Pavelski but you add Karlsson and some young guys. … The game might change in how we create and how we do things but I think he's going to have a big impact. The two months he was healthy he controlled a lot of the games we played. We just need to get him healthy so he can have a full healthy year to get into rhythm."

The Sharks are going to feel Pavelski's departure in more ways than one. Yes, his 355 goals rank second all-time in franchise history, but he brought so much more to the table than simply the ability to put the biscuit in the basket. However, if Karlsson, Meier, Labanc and others can combine to fill his resulting scoring void, Pavelski's absence won't be nearly as noticeable.