Groin injuries ultimately ended Erik Karlsson's first season with the Sharks, but the defenseman says he won't be affected moving forward.
"Right now, it feels like it’s back to normal,” Karlsson told The Athletic's Kevin Kurz in a sit-down interview Thursday. " ... Honestly, it probably felt pretty good sooner than I expected, but I still took the appropriate time that the surgeons wanted for it to be healed.”
Karlsson underwent surgery groin surgery at the end of May after missing 27 of the Sharks' final 33 regular-season games. The defenseman initially injured his groin on Jan. 16, but returned to San Jose's lineup a month later and suited up for NHL All-Star Weekend at SAP Center in between. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Karlsson tweaked his groin on Feb. 24 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although Karlsson played in the Sharks' next game two days later, he played just 14:24 and would not play again until San Jose's regular-season finale on April 6.
The blue liner appeared hobbled during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Karlsson missed much of the third period in Game 4 of the Western Conference final against the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues after aggravating his groin, and played just 10:32 in Game 5. He did not play in the Sharks' season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference final.
Although his groin caused him to miss much of the stretch run, Karlsson told Kurz he does not regret holding off surgery for the offseason.
“I most likely would have missed the whole year,” he told Kurz. “Now it feels that it’s something that shouldn’t affect anything else moving forward, and it shouldn’t be a problem that I have again.”
Karlsson was limited in the postseason, but tied for second on the Sharks with 16 points and led them with 14 assists. The Sharks saw enough in Karlsson's 69 regular-season and playoff games, signing him to an eight-year contract that made him the NHL's highest-paid defenseman.
With health on his side and his long-term future sorted out, Karlsson has a chance to play to his potential that prompted Sharks general manager Doug Wilson to acquire the two-time Norris Trophy winner in a blockbuster trade a year ago.