Erik Karlsson is in the middle of his hottest stretch with the Sharks, and the team reportedly is keen to start discussing how to keep the defenseman in the Bay Area for a long time.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and Karlsson's agent are expected to begin contract extension talks after the NHL All-Star Game, Pierre LeBrun reported Tuesday on TSN's "Insider Trading."
"The two sides have kind of let things stand after the trade in September," LeBrun said. "They wanted him to get used to his new surroundings. My understanding is Don Meehan and Doug Wilson have chatted a bit this week to set up something for after the All-Star break. The two sides would reconvene after [the All-Star game on Jan. 26]."
Karlsson is in the final year of a seven-year, $45.5 million deal that he signed with the Ottawa Senators ahead of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The 28-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent after this season, and would be the best defenseman available on the market.
He is eligible to sign an eight-year contract extension with San Jose after the trade deadline on Feb. 25, and he can only sign an eight-year extension with the Sharks. When San Jose first acquired Karlsson in a blockbuster trade in September, Wilson said the team made the deal in order to try to extend the two-time Norris Trophy winner.
"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 told NBC Sports California at the time. "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."
After scoring just seven points in his first 18 games, Karlsson has surged up the NHL's scoring charts. He has 22 points (one goal, 21 assists) in his last 13 games, and entered Tuesday tied for fifth in the NHL among defenseman in points (38). He was named to the Pacific Division's All-Star team, alongside teammates Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski, last week.
During that stretch -- but don't call it a streak -- Karlsson's underlying numbers have been stellar, too.
Good Lord. Erik Karlsson has 22 points (1 G, 21 A) during a 13-game point streak over the past month. 62.2 CF%, 58.1 SCF%, 64.7 GF% in that span.— Scott Cullen (@ByScottCullen) January 8, 2019
Assuming the salary cap remains flat, the Sharks will have just under $23 million in cap space to work with this offseason. Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is set to be the NHL's highest-paid blue-liner next season, when he enters the first year of an eight-year, $88 million extension he signed last summer. It's possible Karlsson would command more than Doughty on the open market.
Forwards Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen all can become unrestricted free agents this summer, while winger Timo Meier is set to become a restricted free agent.