Sharks

NHL rumors: Erik Karlsson, Sharks working toward contract extension

NHL rumors: Erik Karlsson, Sharks working toward contract extension

The Stanley Cup has been lifted, and the NHL's offseason officially is underway for all 31 teams. Before free agency begins, though, the Sharks reportedly are looking to make a splash by re-signing defenseman Erik Karlsson.

The team and the two-time Norris Trophy winner still are discussing a contract extension, a league source told The Athletic's Kevin Kurz on Thursday.

Kurz wrote that the Sharks "are prepared to offer" Karlsson an eight-year extension in the range of Drew Doughty's $88 million deal with the Los Angeles Kings. With an $11 million salary-cap hit, Doughty currently is the NHL's highest-paid defenseman.

Kurz reported that Karlsson and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson met for dinner Wednesday night in Santa Clara. A Facebook user in a Sharks fan group posted a picture with Karlsson and Wilson from the restaurant, and it later surfaced on the Sharks' fan-run subreddit.

Image courtesy: Reddit (R/SanJoseSharks)

The Sharks first acquired Karlsson, the Senators' longtime captain, in a blockbuster trade that sent four players and up to two draft picks to Ottawa on the eve of training camp. Karlsson played 53 games in his first season in San Jose, missing two because of a December suspension and 27 from January onward because of two separate groin injuries. Despite all that missed time, he scored 45 points (three goals, 42 assists) and posted a 59.22 percent 5-on-5 corsi-for percentage -- the best puck-possession mark among defenseman who played at least 750 minutes this season.

Karlsson clearly was hobbled during the Stanley Cup playoffs, but he tied for second on San Jose with 16 postseason points (two goals, 14 assists). He didn't play in the Sharks' season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference final to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues after aggravating his groin in Game 4 and playing just 10:32 in Game 5.

The Sharks announced last week that Karlsson underwent successful groin surgery, and the defenseman was seen on crutches while attending Game 3 of the NBA Finals that same day. 

The 28-year-old defenseman has not played in 82 games in any of the last three regular seasons, and he also underwent surgery on his left foot after the 2017 postseason. That said, he still would be the best defenseman to hit unrestricted free agency if he and the Sharks cannot reach an agreement. Karlsson can interview with other teams beginning on June 23, but San Jose is the only one that can offer him an eight-year extension.

The latest Karlsson can sign such a deal is 11:59 p.m. ET on June 30, and he only would be able to sign a seven-year deal with a team -- including the Sharks -- beginning at noon ET the next day.

[RELATED: Inconsistent Sharks defense faces uncertain future]

The Sharks currently have just over $58 million in salary commitments for next season, giving them right around $25 million in cap space based on the cap's projected rise to $83 million for 2019-20. Karlsson is one of seven players who can become an unrestricted free agent, in a group that also includes wingers Joonas Donskoi, Gustav Nyquist and Joe Pavelski, as well as veteran center Joe Thornton.

Young wingers Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier likely are in line for raises as restricted free agents, giving Wilson plenty to think about as the offseason rolls along.

Logan Couture believes Sharks' motivation should be sky-high in long offseason

Logan Couture believes Sharks' motivation should be sky-high in long offseason

The Sharks will miss the NHL playoffs for the first time in five seasons, and just the second time since the 2002-03 campaign.

They struggled so much and things got so bad they didn’t even qualify for a modified 24-team playoff format designed to wrap the season after the coronavirus pandemic forced the NHL to hit pause in mid-March.

Disqualification is an odd feeling for most veteran Sharks, especially after a season that started with promise ended in disaster.

San Jose's path to redemption won’t start for months. It may be well into the winter before next season ramps up, meaning the Sharks have plenty of time on their hands to ponder what went wrong and how to make it right.

They want to find old form at the next available opportunity. Logan Couture believes that should push them through a long and uncertain offseason.

“As a group, we know that every single person needs to be better next year,” the Sharks captain said Thursday on a video conference with Sharks reporters. “I think, with this long break, it adds time for guys to get prepared. Motivation should be at an all-time high for everyone because you want to come back and prove it was just a fluke. We believe that we’re a good team. We have all the pieces in the room to be successful. We just need to go out and do it.”

That’s not outside the realm of possibility, though there are as many -- or more -- question marks surrounding the team than in recent memory.

Those will be answered by management as the Sharks try and build the depth required to weather a long season and, if all goes right, playoff intensity.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl promises to be better than before injury]

The current issue is to keep players focused and training on their own so they’re ready to return when the time comes.

“Players are creatures of habit,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil. “The cycles of training and preparing of training and getting ready. This will be the longest time off our team and players have ever had.

"And you’ve got to use that time very well. You don’t want players under-training, or over-training. We’ve talked with our strength and medical people, trying to figure out the best way to get the programs in place so when they come into camp, they’re ready to go.”

Sharks' Tomas Hertl vows to be 'better than before' after knee injury

Sharks' Tomas Hertl vows to be 'better than before' after knee injury

Tomas Hertl stood before the media just a few weeks after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee and vowed to be ready by Sharks training camp. That seemed like a bold proclamation at the time, a promise his rehab should let him live up to.

The All-Star center provided a progress report on his physical condition during a Thursday video conference with the media, saying he’ll be ready for the 2020-21 campaign even if it starts as scheduled in October.

Dropping the puck on time seems highly unlikely after the NHL hit pause on the 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic and announced plans to pick it back up with a modified, 24-team playoff format. That could push next season further into the winter, allowing Hertl to downshift his rehab some and focus on getting strong over getting back on the ice.

“I can do almost anything,” Hertl said. “I am able to run, not full speed, but I can do almost everything I was doing before. I was actually surprised about that after not even four months. If we knew the season was starting in October, I would probably start skating in a few weeks. If there’s extra time it might help me, but I think I would be ready for the season even if it starts when it always does. I should be 100 percent ready for next season whenever it happens.”

[RELATED: Sharks' path back to Stanley Cup contention filled with major hurdles]

Well in line to keep his initial promise, Hertl went a step further Thursday by saying he’s not just looking to regain previous form. He wants to improve upon it.

That would be good news for the Sharks and would continue the 26-year old’s steady ascent as a top-shelf player. He has improved considerably in recent seasons while beginning to maximize great talent, becoming a vital component of the Sharks attack.

Hertl considers this latest knee injury as a speedbump, not a permanent roadblock. He has dealt with knee issues before and always comes back strong. This experience, he says, should be no different.

[RELATED: What you need to know as Sharks long season ends]

“I feel like I have proved the past couple years that I can be one of the top players, one of the top centers on the team,” Hertl said. “I want to keep working on that. I have had some setbacks, but I’m not scared about it. I always come back. The experience has made me stronger. I am taking [this rehab] like another challenge.

“I was named an All-Star and it was a great experience for me, and it makes me want to go back. I want to be there for my team, and that’s why I have been working every day for four months even with the season so far away. My next goal is getting back and being better than before. I know I can do it. I have to give it everything I can to get back.”