How Erik Karlsson focusing on hockey, not contract, helped Sharks re-sign him

How Erik Karlsson focusing on hockey, not contract, helped Sharks re-sign him

Erik Karlsson was about to be, without a doubt, the most talked-about player when NHL free agency opened July 1. But the San Jose Sharks did their part to stop that frenzy from happening, as they signed the two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman to an eight-year contract Monday. 

Many speculated that Karlsson would test the market since he and San Jose didn't reach any kind of agreement before the season ended last month. But Karlsson explained that being given the opportunity to focus on playing hockey during the season and not worrying about signing a contract factored in his final decision to stay in San Jose.

"[General manager] Doug Wilson, and [majority owner] Hasso Plattner as well, never pushed me to make a decision," Karlsson told reporters on a conference call Monday after the deal was finalized. "Throughout the year, they let me play hockey and get adjusted to everything. That meant the world to me."

Despite Karlsson having the season to get settled in San Jose, the rumor mill still churned with whispers that the defenseman wanted to sign with an East Coast team. There was talk Karlsson's wife, Melinda, was homesick and that it was more likely he'd choose a team closer to her native Ottawa.

But Karlsson said he never came close enough to the free agency process to consider any other team than the Sharks.

"My focus since I got traded was the San Jose Sharks, and they were my No. 1 priority after the season," he said. "Spending the full season here and really getting a look [at] how everything works from the organization and the entire Bay Area, I think, was a key to everything.

"San Jose knew from the beginning that was something I wanted to do for myself before making any ultimate decision. Ever since my wife and I arrived here, it's been nothing but good."

Wilson added that getting to know the Karlssons over the course of the season made the contract process better.

"I think the whole process was based on transparency and openness," Wilson said. "I think what I truly respect, and I can't say enough about both Erik and Mel, was that they shared with us upfront what the process was going to be and how they wanted it to go, and we agreed with that. They needed time to get to know us, and we wanted to get to know them. But the fact that they also made this decision and shared with us they would make this decision way ahead of July 1 means the world to us."

Karlsson, who played for a new team for the first time in his NHL career last season after being traded by the Ottawa Senators, added that his Sharks teammates played a role in his final decision.

"Everybody has shown it's a quality place to play for, everything from the coaches and especially my teammates," he said. "Getting to know them over the course of the whole year and seeing how dedicated they are to winning a Cup and wanting to be better at all times."

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San Jose still has a long list of pending free agents to tend to as July 1 approaches. But, at the very least, the Sharks were able to sign one of their most important pending agents to a deal to his liking.

"I feel like this the place where I want to be," Karlsson said. "This was a big decision for me, and at the end of the day, I know this is the best decision for me and my family."

Sharks expecting Timo Meier to take step forward in wake of departures

Sharks expecting Timo Meier to take step forward in wake of departures

Individual progress of an NHL player should not always be measured in goals. 

Yet it’s hard to ignore Timo Meier’s production: 21 goals in his first full season, followed up by 30 last year. 

“He’s worked for everything he’s got,” Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said of Meier. “I think power forwards take a little bit longer. It’s a harder league for bigger guys playing that kind of game to establish themselves."

“His jump last year was incredible,” fellow forward Barclay Goodrow remarked. “He kind of turned into a whole new player, just more confident. He took some games over, shooting the puck and driving the net. Just things he does well at a better pace.” 

The Swiss-born winger has developed a full-fledged reputation for utilizing all six feet and 210 pounds he’s got. 

“I try to be a physical guy. Try to get in the areas where you might hurt, and try to score some dirty goals,” Meier said at training camp. “I want to get better, that’s always something I try to stay hungry on.” 

Timing plays a critical role in the development of a homegrown product like Meier. The Sharks were able to let him develop in the pipeline, and now he's thriving on the biggest stage. 

“He got there the right way,” DeBoer explained. “You’ve got a guy with a lot of confidence, we’ve added a couple minutes every year to his time on ice. He’s going to take another step this year with the guys that departed. We’re excited to see where he can go with it.” 

And that is the exciting question: Where can Meier take things this season? 

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“I’m not a guy that wants to put out a number and say I have to score that many goals,” Meier admitted. “I just try to go out and be the best player I can for the team.”

Sharks goalie Martin Jones aims to prove himself yet again this season


Sharks goalie Martin Jones aims to prove himself yet again this season

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks went 39-1 last season when allowing two goals or fewer. Scoring rarely was an issue for them, which meant many games were decided on their play without the puck.
“We scored a lot of goals, but unlike other years, where we relied on being tight defensively, those goals came at the expense of being a little looser defensively,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer recently said at training camp. “And they were getting different looks.”
Criticism of goals allowed thickened during the final stretch of the regular season, and fingers were pointed in two distinct places: Team defense and goaltending.
“I’m sure [Martin] Jones is the first guy to say he wishes he played better at times," Sharks captain Logan Couture said of his goalie. "But there were a lot of times we didn’t help him out. We gave up too much."
The plot thickened in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, when Vegas took Games 2, 3 and 4 by scoring goals early and often. The Golden Knights looked unstoppable on the scoreboard.

In retrospect, Jones believes he tried to do too much.
“You want to go out and make a difference," he said. "But as a goalie, you need to have more patience and let the game come to you. You can’t race out and make 30 saves in the first period. You have to take what comes to you.“ 
Facing elimination in Game 5, the Sharks turned their Achilles heel into a strong point.
“Breakaways, odd-man rushes, tap-in goals -- he didn’t have a chance,” Couture said. "I don’t know how we did it, but we flipped a switch, and buckled down after that."
Added DeBoer: “I know the group around him takes some responsibility for the ups and downs of last year. To his credit, he found a way. He dug himself out of that place where he wasn’t feeling great about his game.”   

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The final 16 playoff games should clearly indicate what Jones -- who posted a career-worst .896 save percentage and 2.94 goals-against average in the regular season -- can do, especially in the most critical junctures. That must breed confidence in what the Sharks can accomplish this season, if they can support their goalie.
“I can tell you this,” DeBoer said confidently, “the group never wavered once, even at the lowest moments, about whether he could get the job done.”