Erik Karlsson's mindset stands out as much as his skill set to Sharks GM

Erik Karlsson's mindset stands out as much as his skill set to Sharks GM

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.

Sharks suddenly in better position with draft picks, college signings

Sharks suddenly in better position with draft picks, college signings

Given the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we could all use a bit of a pick-me-up right now. It's understandably difficult, but focusing on what bright spots there are will help us get through this unprecedented time.

Taking the glass-half-full approach shouldn't be new to Sharks fans. They had a few months head start before the team's disappointing season was indefinitely paused.

Yes, it was clear early on that it was going to be a tough season in San Jose. The Sharks dropped their first four games of the season, and turned to former captain Patrick Marleau to get back on track. After a strong November, San Jose undid it all with a putrid December, and at that point, it became easy to focus on all of the things the franchise didn't have. The most notable absence was that of hope.

One by one, the Sharks' best players went down with severe season-ending injuries. One of them -- Erik Karlsson -- was like a double punch to the gut. Not only would San Jose not have the benefit of having the former Norris Trophy winner in the lineup, but the cost it took to acquire him -- including the Sharks' unprotected 2020 first-round draft pick -- looked disproportionally painful. Every team in the league would have made that trade for Karlsson -- and signed him to the same eight-year contract extension -- but nearly everything that occurred from that point on was a string of bad luck for San Jose.

There was an upside to losing all of those top players, though. Whatever lingering hopes of a playoff run existed soon went out the window. The Sharks and general manager Doug Wilson could turn their attention to the future, and that's exactly what they did.

In sending Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals, Marleau to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Barclay Goodrow to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline, Wilson overhauled the Sharks' cupboard of draft picks in both quality and quantity. He acquired four picks -- including a 2020 first-rounder -- that will fall within the first three rounds, and San Jose now has seven selections in each of the next three drafts.

Those will come in very handy as the Sharks try to get back into contention -- and stay there. Sustained success is built through young, controllable assets, and the draft is the best way to acquire them.

That said, there are always some prospects that fall between the cracks. Brinson Pasichnuk was one such prospect who was never drafted, yet became one of the best players throughout all of NCAA Division I hockey. The Arizona State standout agreed to join the Sharks organization, Wilson announced Tuesday, adding to San Jose's collection of promising young defensemen, including Mario Ferraro and Ryan Merkley.

[RELATED: Sharks' Ferraro moved in with parents during NHL pause]

Shortly after Pasichnuck agreed to join the Sharks, Hobey Baker Award finalist John Leonard did the same. Leonard, San Jose's sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, tallied 105 points over 106 career games at UMass Amherst. He had the option of returning to school for his senior season, but had little left to prove at the collegiate level. While he isn't a new prospect to the Sharks' system, it's nonetheless a positive development for San Jose.

Two months ago, the Sharks' future appeared as bleak as it had in nearly two decades. Since then, however, they've taken several steps in the right direction, and there is considerably more reason for hope.

We can all use a little of that right now.

Sharks' Mario Ferraro moved in with parents for NHL coronavirus pause

Sharks' Mario Ferraro moved in with parents for NHL coronavirus pause

Sharks defenseman Mario Ferraro normally would be spending recent nights in five-star hotels around the NHL. But he's back at home these days because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
As in, living with his parents in Toronto.
“Different vibes now, I don’t run the household anymore,” Ferraro joked Monday in a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports California. “I told them already, 'If I’m in my room filming a YouTube video, limit the noise, and don’t come knocking on the door.' ”
Ferraro is becoming more well known for the side hustle of producing his YouTube channel, "Youngest of Plugs."
One of his latest uploads turned out to be among his most popular: A specific workout for staying at home, like so many of his fans are right now while social distancing.
“I like making videos, and I like working out,” Ferraro said. “So kind of just put the two and two together. I guess because of what’s going on now in the world, a lot of people are at home and need that entertainment.”
As for his day job, it was quite the bizarre rookie season in San Jose. Ferraro's first pro season included personal success, team struggles, a coaching change and, now, the unthinkable: A suspended NHL season, due to a pandemic.
“I don’t even know if bizarre would cut it,” Ferraro said. “Things that are happening right now are much more important than hockey, or sports in general. But when you do circle back since the beginning of the season and what’s happened, it was tough ups and downs.”

[RELATED: Promising D-man prospect Pasichnuk agrees to join Sharks]
Ferraro ended up playing in 61 of the Sharks' 70 games, and he was one of the few consistent bright spots of their season. There’s high optimism he’ll end up as a top-four defenseman in the near future.
But as for now, he’s like all of us. At home, and a bit scared of what the coronavirus pandemic is about to become around the globe.
“It’s hard to deny that,” Ferarro said. “It’s a scary time. When you think about how it affects not just you, or your family, it affects the whole world. Everybody is going through this.”