Sharks

NHL free agency: Will Erik Karlsson's health affect Sharks signing him?

NHL free agency: Will Erik Karlsson's health affect Sharks signing him?

SAN JOSE – Ever since arriving in San Jose last September, Erik Karlsson’s tenure as a Shark has been riddled with questions.

Questions as to when he would get on the scoreboard when he started off the season pointless. Questions as to why he was participating in the NHL All-Star Game when he was too hurt to pencil into his team’s roster on a nightly basis. Questions as to whether the Sharks would sign him to a deal that would keep him in teal past the 2019 season – which became even more of a mystery when he tweeted out a message to Sharks fans, thanking them for the season.

The latter question will be answered in good time with San Jose’s postseason run over and free agency on the horizon. Now, come the questions as to how much Karlsson’s injuries from this past season play into what happens to him next.

“I’m still in the process of figuring all that out so I can’t really give you a straight answer,” Karlsson said during exit interviews when asked about his overall health. “It’s nothing major. It’s just going to take some time and figure everything out. It should be something that’s easy to deal with. That’s as much as I know.”

Karlsson missed 29 games over the regular season with a suspected groin injury, which first took him out of the Sharks’ lineup just before the All-Star break. Following his return in the final game of the regular season, the conversation continued into the playoffs regarding how healthy he really was.

While Karlsson appeared more and more healthy as the Sharks advanced through two rounds of the playoffs, he began to show signs he was ailing during the Western Conference final, and eventually missed Game 6.
 
The defenseman didn’t expand on the extent to which he was injured, only saying he was one of many Sharks’ skater who wasn’t playing at 100-percent.

“Everybody is dealing with something,” Karlsson insisted. “You have to play through things.” 

Karlsson also didn’t give any indication as to what kind of rehab process he will have to go through over the offseason, although he insisted his health wouldn't get in his way.

“All I know is it’s not going to be anything that will be a problem moving forward,” he said. “I’m going to be able to have a normal summer with training and everything and getting ready. That’s great.”

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told the press he didn’t know yet if any injured players on the team would need surgery in the offseason, including Karlsson. When asked if Karlsson’s health played a factor in whether the team tried to sign him to a long-term deal, Wilson didn’t lean one way or the other.

“I’m still in the reflection mode of this year, just starting to meet with players, meet with coaches,” Wilson said. “We have a lot of guys who have contracts up, and out of respect to them, we don’t discuss that.”

[RELATED: Sharks emerge from playoff run with lengthy injury list]

Karlsson does appear interested, however, in testing out the market.

“I’ve worked hard for 10 years in this league to be in the position that I’m in. I’ve earned that,” he said of being an unrestricted free agent. “I’ll do everything I can to make the best decision for myself and for the team that is going to want me.”

How much his health plays into that decision, still remains to be seen. 

Sharks issue qualifying offers to Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and five others

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USATSI

Sharks issue qualifying offers to Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and five others

The Sharks took their first step towards re-signing restricted free agents Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc.

San Jose issued qualifying offers to Meier, Labanc, Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela and three others on Tuesday. That means the Sharks retain their rights as restricted free agents, and would be entitled to compensation if any of the seven players signed an offer sheet with another team. 

Now comes the hard part. The Sharks, who have just over $14.8 million in salary-cap space according to Cap Friendly, risk losing forwards Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist as unrestricted free agents. Retaining all three and re-signing Meier, Labanc and Gambrell will be difficult if not impossible, even if the restricted trio sign bridge contracts. 

Meanwhile, the Sharks didn't issue qualifying offers to seven other restricted free agents. Defenseman Joakim Ryan and forward Rourke Chartier headline the group, all of whom can become unrestricted free agents. Tuesday marked the deadline for teams to issue qualifying offers to RFAs, which would ensure they would receive compensation in the unlikely event of an offer sheet. Now, the Sharks won't receive any compensation should Chartier or Ryan sign elsewhere. 

Ryan, 26, played in 44 regular-season games last year as rookie blueliner Radim Simek seized a spot among the Sharks' top six defensemen. While Ryan didn't play between Jan. 23 and March 13, Simek's season-ending knee injury allowed Ryan to draw back into the lineup from mid-March onward. He suited up for every Stanley Cup playoff game, but played the fewest minutes per game of any of the team's defensemen (8:41) during the postseason. 

With fellow left-handed defensemen Mario Ferraro (2017 second-round pick), Jacob Middleton (made his NHL debut last year) and Tony Sund (35 points in 60 games in Finland last year) still on their entry-level contracts for next season, it's conceivable Ryan has played his last game in teal.

[RELATED: Can cap-strapped Sharks afford to keep Donskoi?]

Chartier, 23, made the team out of training camp and scored his first NHL goal on Oct. 28. He returned to the AHL's San Jose Barracuda for good on Jan. 13, but did not suit up after Feb. 22. Sommer told reporters shortly after that Chartier had "upper-body issues," and the forward was concussed twice in the previous season. 

It's possible that Ryan and/or Chartier re-signs. A year ago Tuesday, the Sharks did not issue a qualifying offer to defenseman Dylan DeMelo. San Jose re-signed DeMelo on July 7, before including him in the package to acquire defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators. 

Sharks hilariously troll Golden Knights, others with schedule release

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AP

Sharks hilariously troll Golden Knights, others with schedule release

The Sharks released their schedule for the 2019-20 season Tuesday morning, and whoever came up with the idea for the way in which it would be displayed on Twitter deserves a raise. Maybe two.

It was that good.

Alongside each of the 82 game dates listed in a was a song pairing someway related to the opponent for that particular matchup. Some titles were simply "dad joke" humor. Others were more savage with their intent.

And they didn't save the best for last.

Nope, the Sharks came out guns a blazing and didn't hold back. Their first two games of the 2019-20 season are against their new-ish rivals in the Vegas Golden Knights, whom San Jose eliminated in a wildly memorable seven-game first-round Stanley Cup playoff series. You might recall that in order to do so, the Sharks had to not only overcome a three-games-to-one series deficit, but also scored not one, not two, not three -- but FOUR! -- goals on a single power play in the third period of the decisive game.

It was quite possibly the greatest single-game comeback in NHL postseason history. As such, it's a rather painful memory for the Golden Knights, and the Sharks, well, didn't waste an opportunity to rub it in.

The first song title listed: "The Kill" by Thirty Seconds to Mars.

The second song title listed? "4 minutes" by Madonna.

The theme continued with the other two Sharks-Golden Knights matchups on the schedule. For their third encounter on Nov. 21, they chose "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba ("I get knocked down, but I get up again"). For the fourth and final meeting: "Bad Blood" by Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar.

The Sharks' sense of humor wasn't limited to their matchups with the Golden Knights, however. A scan of the playlist will reveal several hilarious pairings, many of which don't pull any punches.

For instance, "Welcome to the 60s" for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967.

"If I Could Turn Back Time" for a matchup with the longtime rival Los Angeles Kings, who have not won a playoff game since 2016. 

"Bills, Bills, Bills" for the first game against the Ottawa Senators. Gee, I wonder what that could be in reference to?

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

You get the point. Now give that person a raise.