Sharks

Conn Smythe candidate Logan Couture making case for Selke candidacy

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AP

Conn Smythe candidate Logan Couture making case for Selke candidacy

Logan Couture bookended the Sharks' Game 1 victory over the Blues with a pair of goals. He added an assist in between, and was never on the ice for a goal against.

Those two goals and three points increased his playoff totals to 11 and 17, respectively, both of which lead all players. His plus-7 rating for the postseason is tied for first among all playoff forwards.

As such, Couture is on the short list of candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy, given annually to the most valuable player of the NHL playoffs.

But according to his coach, he should be in the running for another award as well. When asked why Couture hasn't gotten major consideration for the Selke Trophy -- given to the best defensive forward in the NHL -- Peter DeBoer could only compare it to another overlooked situation.

"I don't know," DeBoer said of Couture's omission as a Selke finalist following Sunday's skate. "I think of because where he plays a little. Logan is the forward version of (Marc-Edouard) Vlasic. Invaluable, does everything right ... Beauty of those guys is they're OK with that, they just want to win. That's what they do for us."

Vlasic, long considered one of the top defensive defensemen in the league, has never won a Norris Trophy, which tends to be given to more offensive defenseman, despite the award being intended for the best all-around player at the position.

Similarly, Couture has never won a Selke, nor did he win the Conn Smythe when he led all scorers with 30 playoff points in 2016. That honor, instead, went to Sidney Crosby, who posted 19 points on the Penguins' way to winning the Cup over the Sharks.

The 2019 Selke Trophy finalists include Boston's Patrice Bergeron, Vegas' Mark Stone and St. Louis' Ryan O'Reilly, meaning that if San Jose were to make it all the way to the Cup Final, Couture could possibly go head-to-head against all three players considered over him within the same playoff run.

[RELATED: Sharks look to finally win a Game 2 in this year's playoffs]

That's a game within the game, but one that won't distract Couture from his top priority. Individual accolades are all well and good, but as DeBoer said, he just wants to win.

If he keeps up his current level of play, the Sharks might do just that.

Sharks trade defenseman Justin Braun to Flyers, acquire two draft picks

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USATSI

Sharks trade defenseman Justin Braun to Flyers, acquire two draft picks

The Sharks kept retooling their lineup for the future on Tuesday as the team traded defenseman Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers.

In return, San Jose acquired a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2020 draft.

Braun has spent his entire professional career playing for the Sharks, having been drafted in the seventh round in the 2007 draft. The left-hander scored 154 total points (24 goals, 130 assists) and was a plus-24 in 607 games played. He tallied 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists) in 78 games played in the 2018-19 season.

The Minnesota native has been a staple on the Sharks' blue line, spending a significant amount of time paired with Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Braun averaged 19:56 minutes of ice time per game through nine regular seasons in teal and 21:01 minutes of ice time through 84 Stanley Cup playoff games. Braun was also a lock on San Jose's penalty kill, which ended the last regular season with a 80.8-percent success rate.

While the trade gives the Sharks a second-round pick in the upcoming draft, it also leaves them without a left-shooting veteran defenseman in their starting lineup. San Jose currently has left-handed shot Joakim Ryan, who is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, and AHL defenseman Jacob Middleton, who played three games at the professional level last season.

[RELATED: Why Karlsson skipped free agency to sign with Sharks]

Braun has one year left on his current five-year contract before hitting free agency. The trade increases the Sharks' projected cap space by $3.8 million, according to CapFriendly

The Sharks still have 21 players on their list of free agents. It'll be a busy summer for Doug Wilson and Co.

Why Erik Karlsson re-signed with Sharks, passed on NHL free agency

Why Erik Karlsson re-signed with Sharks, passed on NHL free agency

The 2019 NHL All-Star Game might have been more meaningful than you realized.

It wasn't because the Sharks hosted the event at San Jose's SAP Center for the first time since 1997, or even because the Sharks had an NHL-leading three representatives. No, it was because of what the event ultimately signified to defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Five months before re-signing with the Sharks for eight years on Monday, Karlsson was still in the middle of his first season in San Jose and about a week removed from injuring his groin for the first time. He missed three games before the All-Star Game -- and the first six after -- because of the injury, but he played in the All-Star Game on home ice because it was important for San Jose's fans. 

And ultimately, San Jose was important to him, he told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil in a 1-on-1 interview Monday.

"If the All-Star Game would have been somewhere else, I most likely would have not played," Karlsson said. "But I do think that having an All-Star Game at home means a lot for the organization and the fanbase, and I felt like that was something I was possibly going to be a part of for a very long time, so it meant a lot to me and I wanted to do that. So yeah, when you look back at it, I don't even think that I fully understood at the time what it really meant, but ... we felt connected to this organization since we got here."

In a conference call with reporters Monday morning, Karlsson repeatedly mentioned how the Sharks gave him the time and space to get comfortable with his new surroundings, and ultimately make a decision about his future. Before a Sept. 13 trade brought him to San Jose on the eve of training camp, the Senators were the only NHL team he had played for. Ottawa had become his home.

It was a position Sharks general manager Doug Wilson knew well. Before joining San Jose ahead of its inaugural NHL season in 1991-92, Wilson had spent the entirety of his career in Chicago. His wife is from there, just as Karlsson's is from Ottawa. As a result, Wilson knew how important it was to let Karlsson acclimate, despite the defenseman being in the final season of his contract.

After all, Karlsson entered the season as the only active defenseman to win the Norris Trophy twice and is the leading scorer at his position since making his NHL debut in 2009. Although the aforementioned groin injuries hampered him in 53 regular-season games and the ensuing playoff run, Karlsson would have had suitors in free agency -- look no further than the New York Rangers acquiring right-shooting defenseman (and pending restricted free agent) Jacob Trouba hours after Karlsson re-signed with the Sharks.

But Karlsson didn't want to let things get that far, and if he did, he told Brazil he still would have had San Jose in mind.

"I think that speaks to how everything transpired since the Sharks acquired me," Karlsson said. " ... I think that ever since I got here we've had a great relationship and if I, by any chance, wanted to test the free-agency market, I would have let them know as early as I possibly could because I do understand that there's a lot of things that need to be done, and a lot of things that require a lot of time, so I wanted to give them the most time that they possibly could to have the best team that they possibly can."

[RELATED: Sharks to face Pacific rivals throughout 2019 preseason]

Karlsson told Brazil he is happy to be a big part of the Sharks trying to do just that. Wilson said Karlsson's decision gives San Jose's offseason clarity, even as the general manager is faced with other tough choices in building out the roster this season and beyond. 

But Karlsson, a six-time All-Star, now is in the fold for the foreseeable future. And as a result, his latest All-Star appearance could be remembered for much more than just a midseason exhibition.