SAN JOSE -- Sharks general manager Doug Wilson reiterated Saturday that he hopes to sign newly acquired defenseman Erik Karlsson to a long-term extension, and that the team has no long-term concerns about Karlsson’s surgically repaired left ankle.
“He’s 100 percent,” Wilson said Saturday. “The type of guy he is, he’s kind of like our guys ... There’s a difference between being injured and being hurt. He’ll still play [if he’s injured], but we did our research. He’s tough as nails, too.”
Karlsson underwent surgery 15 months ago, and said last September it felt “like I have a leather piece in my ankle and can’t really move it.” The Swedish defenseman did not return to the Senators lineup until the sixth game of the season, but scored 62 points in the 71 games he did play and told The Athletic in July he thinks his ankle is better now than it was prior to the injury.
His willingness to play through pain would seem to make the defenseman a good fit within San Jose’s dressing room. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski “played with one hand” for the first half of last season, according to Wilson, while linemate Joe Thornton nearly came back to play on a torn ACL and MCL for the second time in as many seasons.
Pavelski, 34, and Thornton, 39, have concerns that the 28-year-old Karlsson doesn’t yet have to deal with. Wilson said he believes Karlsson is still entering the prime of his career, but that doesn’t mean he’s worried Pavelski or Thornton will start to drop off this season.
“I’m not sure the clock ticks the same way [or] the calendar works the same way with great players with great minds,” Wilson said. “[Thornton’s] that way, Pavelski is certainly that way.”
Head coach Peter DeBoer joked Friday that the Sharks would have no problem “[squeezing Karlsson] in somewhere.” No team would after adding a two-time Norris Trophy winner, let alone a club that already has a Norris winner on its blueline.
Yet when Wilson met with the Swedish defenseman in Ottawa ahead of the trade, the general manager admired Karlsson’s mindset as much as his skill set.
“Spending time with him was really impressive,” Wilson told reporters Saturday. "I’ve always admired him as a player. … It’s not even about him wanting to be great, [or] winning Norris Trophies. He wants to win Stanley Cups."
Karlsson’s health is not a question mark in Wilson’s eyes, and neither is the defenseman’s motivation. The Sharks were willing to give up two roster players, two prospects, two draft picks, and two conditional draft selections in order to get Karlsson in the building, and they’re willing to sign him long-term to keep him there.
Wilson pointed to his history of re-signing trade acquisitions like Thornton, Brent Burns, Martin Jones, and Evander Kane to deals. The latter three signed contracts lasting at least five years, and Wilson’s negotiated five such deals with pending unrestricted free agents since the last lockout, after none before.
“You start taking a look at the top players, that’s what they’re getting,” Wilson said. “I can have my own belief, but within the system, when you go across, you’re seeing what players are getting, the structure of contracts, and the term.
“You want compensation to match performance, and within our group and within our team, it has to make sense. Difference-makers and top-end guys should get paid well.”
The cost of doing business, in this case, is one Wilson would be happy to pay.