Sharks

NHL rumors: Erik Karlsson, Sharks will talk extension after All-Star Game

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AP

NHL rumors: Erik Karlsson, Sharks will talk extension after All-Star Game

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]."

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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. 

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.

How Sharks' Joe Thornton taught Rick Nash to be a pro in Switzerland

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USATSI

How Sharks' Joe Thornton taught Rick Nash to be a pro in Switzerland

Joe Thornton currently is in his 15th season with the Sharks after being acquired by San Jose in a trade with the Boston Bruins during the 2005-06 NHL season. He spent the previous year in Davos, Switzerland while the league remained in lockout, where he paired up with one of the NHL's rising young stars.

More than a decade-and-a-half later, Rick Nash still fondly remembers the time he spent playing alongside one of the most prolific passers to ever play the sport.

"When me and Joe first played together in Switzerland, it was really kind of instant chemistry," Nash recalled to NBC Sports California. "For the first couple games, we played together. On the power play, we played the whole season together. The easy thing about playing with Jumbo was he told you, 'Just go to the net with your stick down. Go to the high slot with your stick on the ice and I'll find you.' We had a lot of success with that over the years, at World Championships, obviously in Davos.

"He's such an easy guy to play with and his skill is so high and his passing ability is so high, it just makes sense why he has that many assists in the NHL."

At last check, Thornton was up to 1,082 career assists, good enough for seventh place on the NHL's all-time list. You don't accumulate that many helpers without being supremely skilled, but as Nash explained, Thornton always has brought a lot more to the table than what he could do with the puck.

"The thing that made Joe different from other teammates was, No. 1, off the ice, he was always a happy guy, always had a smile on his face," Nash said. "He was always around the rink. For me, being a younger guy, he was someone I looked up to on how to be a pro, how to extend my career, how to be good to the other guys that I was kind of taking under my wing. On the ice, it was obviously his skill to make plays and make passes. 

"For me and my style of game, I was always a shooter. I always liked to score goals, so we kind of accompanied each other perfectly. To this day, I don't think there's an easier guy to play with than Joe."

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To spend 22 seasons in the NHL -- and one in the top Swiss league -- it requires not only an abundance of talent, but competitiveness to match. According to Nash, while he has seen plenty of Thornton's competitive streak on the ice, he experienced it off of it, as well. Specifically, when it came to the board game of world domination known as "Risk."

"We started this game with his brothers and his friends and my friends," Nash explained with a chuckle. "Dinner time would roll around, and we would bring the Risk board to dinner. So if you could only imagine trying to keep all those pieces on the board driving the car through the Swiss mountains to get to dinner to set up our Risk game, and once we got there, guys would be arguing about how many soldiers they had on which country. 

"It was always that stuff away from the rink that made hanging out with him so fun."

The Sharks know as well as anyone just how fun and talented Thornton can be. While world domination is a lofty goal, they'd all gladly settle for a Stanley Cup.

NHL rumors: Sharks' Brenden Dillon of interest to Bruins, 'half dozen' teams

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AP

NHL rumors: Sharks' Brenden Dillon of interest to Bruins, 'half dozen' teams

The market for Brenden Dillon is heating up. It's sounding like more of a "when" rather than an "if" the Sharks' defenseman will be moved.

In a season where very little has gone right for San Jose, Dillon has been one of the few, consistent bright spots. He has appeared in every game while averaging over 19 minutes of ice time, and he leads all Sharks' defensemen in plus-minus. According to TSN Insiders Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun, the closer the NHL gets to the trade deadline, the more teams reportedly are inquiring about the blue-liner who is on pace to lead the Sharks in hits for the fourth straight season. 

"Most definitely the Winnipeg Jets are in the market for a specific top-four defenseman," Dreger reported Tuesday. "Now, it could be a rental player, it could be a player with some term. They're not ruling out anything at this point."

Dillon is in the final year of his contract and is due to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, so he would fall into the rental category. Given the price Dillon is likely to command, that might not be ideal for Winnipeg, but Dreger noted that the Dustin Byfuglien situation -- as well as Bryan Little and Adam Lowry's respective recoveries from injury -- could force the Jets' hand.

LeBrun agreed that Dillon would make plenty of sense for Winnipeg, but didn't stop there.

"I don't think he would be on the top of their list, but certainly on the list of players that the Jets would have compiled already, I think Brenden Dillon would be on there somewhere," LeBrun said. "Pending UFA, he's a defenseman that's going to be dealt by the San Jose Sharks. He's a No. 4 for some teams, a No. 5 for others. I can tell you half-a-dozen teams so far have shown interest, including, I'm told, the Boston Bruins. Obviously a rugged, defensive defenseman in Brenden Dillon would be a nice fit there in Boston. Carolina Hurricanes, who just lost Dougie Hamilton, have also been among the teams that have shown interest." 

"It will not be an issue moving Brenden Dillon," LeBrun summarized. "The question is what can San Jose get out of it? I think it's probably going to be a second-round pick, and maybe a prospect."

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The Sharks are still holding out hope for a playoff push, but whether or not they are successful in that pursuit, Dillon might be of more value to them elsewhere.