Sharks general manager Doug Wilson had a good reason to be in his hometown Thursday. He was meeting with his newest defenseman, Erik Karlsson.
Just a couple of Norris Trophy winners. pic.twitter.com/cee2zSowoM— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) September 13, 2018
"It's one of those deals when you're dealing with a trade at this level, you want to be on the ground, and be there in person in case anything needs to be addressed," Wilson said from Ottawa in a phone interview Thursday on The Happy Hour.
The massive deal, which sent four players, two draft picks and conditional draft picks to Ottawa in exchange for Karlsson, capped off months of discussions. Wilson said the Sharks first spoke to the Senators at last season's trade deadline, and Sportsnet's John Shannon reported Thursday that San Jose "had a deal in principle done" with Ottawa back then. Senators winger Bobby Ryan told the Ottawa Sun in May that he heard a deal was done to send himself and Karlsson to a Western Conference team, but "somebody backed out at the last second."
Karlsson told reporters Thursday that he didn't know how close he was to moving at the deadline, adding that he "was watching TV just like everybody else." But Wilson stayed in touch with the Senators, and said the teams reached a deal because Ottawa was looking to get something done quickly.
"You always want to keep your oar in the water when it comes to game-changers and difference-makers, so we just kept in contact," Wilson said. "Sometimes, the team that has the player will dictate the timeline. I think Ottawa explored [a deal] at the trade deadline and were probably looking at wanting to do the deal before the season started. So you could just sense that the urgency was picking up, and for the last several weeks, we've been in conversations."
Karlsson was emotional at his final press conference in Ottawa and told reporters there he "never wanted to leave" the Canadian capital. The two-time Norris Trophy winner kept quiet about a possible extension, but Wilson said on The Happy Hour that he was confident the franchise and Karlsson would be a long-term match.
"You go and research the player, you research what he's looking for, and then if you have the things he's looking for, it minimizes that risk," Wilson said. "We look at Erik much like we looked at Evander [Kane in May], as a guy who fits now and in the future age-wise, style of game ... We're in the mode of trying to win right now, and I think that's something that's attractive to him.
"You have to make it be a place the player wants to play, filling in all of the ingredients that they're looking for in their decision-making process. He's expressed that to us, that we are a place he'd like to be, and same thing [for] us back to him. We'd love him to be here long term."
The Sharks are set to have just over $25.5 million in salary cap space next summer -- assuming the cap does not increase -- with 10 players under contract. When his contract extension kicks in after this season, Los Angeles Kings blueliner Drew Doughty will be the league's highest-paid defenseman in terms of cap hit ($11 million).
Still, Wilson sounded confident in the Sharks' ability to keep Karlsson beyond this season.
"I don't comment on contract negotiations, but I will say that we've had extensive conversations with his agents, and we feel extremely comfortable making this deal today with where we're sitting," Wilson said. "Now that he's our property, we can spend a lot of time with him and continue those discussions."