Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-0 shutout win over Wild

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-0 shutout win over Wild


The Sharks and Wild may not have been playing a playoff game on Monday night, but boy did it look like one. Both teams played tough and tight and refused to give each other any room. That is, until San Jose broke through in the second half of the contest and shut out the Wild 3-0. 

Here are three takeaways from the season series finale:

This was a defense-heavy game if we ever saw one

...And not just because this was a low-scoring game. A low-scoring game can be the result of weak offense. The back-and-forth and shot-for-shot nature of Monday’s Sharks-Wild game was the work of two teams who buckled down and refused to give the opposition any room to work. (Honorable mention: Martin Jones, who tallied his third shutout of the season.)

You really have to give credit to the Sharks, who used their size to get around Minnesota’s defense. Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl were standouts in getting dangerous looks right in Devan Dubnyk’s grill -- even before they worked together to get the second goal on the evening. And, of course, Barclay Goodrow, who was posted up in front of Minnesota’s goal, deflected Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s shot into the net.

Hats off to the penalty kill

The penalty kill was really good for both teams. San Jose had two opportunities on the man advantage in the first frame that could have given them an early lead. Minnesota, however, did a good job of breaking up the Sharks’ plays.

But the Sharks’ penalty kill was equally as effective when the Wild got two opportunities in the second stanza. San Jose had a problem killing penalties during a recent stretch, so it was definitely nice to see them tighten that aspect of their game up -- especially against a desperate team like Minnesota, who was pressing. 

It always helps to win the first one

Sure, the Sharks have already played a ridiculous number of back-to-backs this season. But prevailing in the first game can really give a team a good boost they can carry into the following evening. 

Winning such a tight game in Minnesota is great fuel for the Sharks before they play in Winnipeg on Tuesday. The Jets are just barely holding onto first place in the Central division and lost to San Jose when the teams last matched up. Having positive momentum coming out of the win over the Wild should set the Sharks up nicely.

How Erik Karlsson contract impacts Sharks on ice, salary cap, at NHL Draft


How Erik Karlsson contract impacts Sharks on ice, salary cap, at NHL Draft

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson got his man.

Nine months after a trade that first brought him to San Jose, defenseman Erik Karlsson officially signed an eight-year contract with the team Monday morning, which TSN's Bob McKenzie and CapFriendly reported is worth $11.5 million annually. That would make the two-time Norris Trophy winner the NHL's highest-paid defenseman, and San Jose's highest-paid player.

What does the deal mean for the Sharks? Let's take a look at Karlsson's contract and its impact in three key areas.

On the ice

By just about any metric, Karlsson is one of the NHL's best defenseman -- if not the best -- when healthy. No defenseman has more points (563) or won more Norris Trophies (two) as the league's best blue liner since the smooth-skating Swede made his debut a decade ago. Karlsson will help keep the Sharks' Stanley Cup window open over the next few years, and represent a key piece in one of the league's best defense groups.

The 29-year-old was limited to 53 regular-season games in 2018-19, missing 27 of those games after the turn of the calendar thanks to nagging groin injuries. Despite that, Karlsson still led all defensemen who played at least 750 5-on-5 minutes in corsi-for percentage, and finished no worse than 10th by the other major puck-possession measures among that group, according to Natural Stat Trick. He was also third among all defenseman in Evolving Hockey's goals above replacement (GAR) and wins above replacement (WAR) metrics after playing 27 and 13 fewer games, respectively, than the two blue liners who finished above him (John Carlson, Victor Hedman).

Karlsson's groin continued to bother him in the Stanley Cup playoffs, forcing him to play just 10:27 in Game 5 of the Western Conference final and miss Game 6 entirely after aggravating it in Game 4. Because of the groin issues, this marked the second straight season Karlsson played in fewer games than his last. Back in 2017, he missed the first five games of the Ottawa Senators' season after undergoing surgery on his left ankle, and missed 11 in total after skating in 77 games the previous season.

Karlson underwent groin surgery earlier this month, and told reporters on a conference call Monday that he expects to be ready for the start of the season.

"I'm in that process (of rehabbing) right now," Karlsson said. "It's gonna be all summer long. I'm gonna do everything I can to be as good as I possibly can for when the season starts. So far, no problems, and I don't expect this to be an issue starting next year. It's gonna be a lot of work, but it's work that I'm gonna be more than willing to put in and I've already started that. ... I'm gonna have a great summer ahead of me, and I'll be back in San Jose in no time."

Before 2017-18, Karlsson played in at least 75 games in six straight 82-game seasons. But he'll be 36 in the final year of his reported eight-year contract, and a defenseman that age (or older) has played in at least 75 games 21 times since 2013-14. Only five played in at least 60 games last season, and there were only seven in the league. In a league that's getting younger every year, the Sharks are betting on Karlsson to be one of those exceptions. That's a risky proposition for any player, but Karlsson's on-ice track record speaks for itself.

Against the cap

Over the weekend, Sportsnet's Elliote Friedman reported that "several teams indicated they thought the cap might be closer to" $82 million in 2019-20 than the NHL's initial projected salary cap of $83 million. Let's go with the low end, and say next season's cap is $82 million. 

With Karlsson reportedly signing for around $11.5 million, San Jose would have about $12.5 million in salary-cap space, according to Cap Friendly. The Sharks have 16 players under contract, but quite a few free agents left to sign.

Forwards Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Gustav Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi can all become unrestricted free agents, while young wingers Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are set to hit restricted free agency. Pavelski and Meier combined to score 68 goals last season, and Evolving Hockey's contract model pegs the pair to make a combined $13.5 million on their next contracts.

Those are just projections, and it's possible both players take some kind of a discount, but it does exemplify the cap crunch the Sharks face this summer. Wilson would not comment on the Sharks' negotiations with their pending free agents, but said that Karlsson re-signing doesn't necessarily rule anything else out.

"I don't think anybody should rush to conclusions on anything," Wilson said. "There's many ways to accomplish different things. ... You explore everything. It's a two-way street where everybody has choices and options, but all discussions are ongoing with all our UFAs and RFAs at this point, and will continue."

Beyond this summer and next season, Karlsson is now the sixth player Wilson has signed to a deal of at least six years since 2016. Before Brent Burns signed an eight-year extension in 2016, Wilson had signed just one player (Milan Michalek, 2007) to a contract lasting at least six years.

Karlsson, whose deal reportedly includes a no-movement clause, fellow defensemen Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, forwards Logan Couture and Evander Kane and goaltender Martin Jones all are now signed until at least 2024. All six will be in their early- to mid-30s by then, and would have to be protected in the upcoming expansion draft due to the trade protection in their deals.

With Meier first eligible for unrestricted free agency in four years and Tomas Hertl due to become a UFA in three, the Sharks likely will have a lot of money tied up in a core that's getting older in the coming years. A lot can -- and almost certainly will -- change before the end of Karlsson's contract, but Wilson will have to maintain flexibility in filling out the rest of the roster. The draft is a key component of that.

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At the draft

With Karlsson officially under contract, the trade that first brought him to San Jose is now complete. As a condition of him re-signing, the Sharks will send a 2021 second-round pick to Ottawa in addition to the 2019 second-round pick, a 2020 first-round pick and the four roster players traded to the Senators on the eve of training camp last September. Including this week's draft in Vancouver, here's the Sharks' draft outlook over the next three seasons:

  • Four picks in 2019 (Third round, fifth round, sixth round and seventh round)
  • Four picks in 2020 (Second round, fourth round, and two in fifth round)
  • Six picks in 2021 (First round, second round, third round, fourth round, fifth round and sixth round)

The Sharks would have lost their 2021 first-round pick had they made the Stanley Cup Final, and that pick will be important as Wilson tries to surround Karlsson and Co. with developing, affordable talent. Wilson mentioned on his conference call with reporters that he thinks San Jose currently has prospects he thinks are capable of pushing for roster spots, especially on the wing.

With just eight total picks over the next two seasons, Wilson said the Sharks will continue to be active in scouting and signing European free agents. This season, seven such players played in at least 25 games for San Jose, and continuing that will allow the Sharks to keep the organizational cupboard stocked and build a roster around Karlsson and the rest of their core.

How Erik Karlsson's opportunity to focus on hockey helped in Sharks re-signing


How Erik Karlsson's opportunity to focus on hockey helped in Sharks re-signing

SAN JOSE -- Erik Karlsson was about to be, without a doubt, the most talked-about player when NHL free agency opened up on July 1.

But the San Jose Sharks have done their part in stopping that frenzy from taking place as they inked the two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman to an eight-year contract. There was plenty of speculation that Karlsson would test the market since he and San Jose hadn't reached any kind of a deal before the season was over. But Karlsson explained that being given the opportunity to focus on playing hockey during the season and not worrying about signing a contract just yet played a part in his final decision.

"(General manager) Doug Wilson, and (majority owner) Hasso Plattner as well, never pushed me to make a decision," Karlsson told the press on a conference call Monday morning after the deal was finalized. "Throughout the year, they let me play hockey and get adjusted to everything. That meant the world to me."

Despite having the season to get settled in San Jose, the rumor mill still churned with whispers Karlsson wanted to sign for with a team on the East Coast. There was talk that Karlsson's wife, Melinda, was homesick and that it was more likely he would choose a team closer to her native Ottawa. But Karlsson said he never got close enough to the free agency process to consider any other team.

"My focus since I got traded was the San Jose Sharks and they were my number one priority after the season," he said. "Spending the full season here and really getting a look (at) how everything works from the organization and the entire Bay Area I think was a key to everything. San Jose knew from the beginning that was something I wanted to do for myself before making any ultimate decision. Ever since my wife and I arrived here it's been nothing but good."

Wilson went so far as to add that getting to know the Karlsson's over the season made the contract process better. 

"I think the whole process was based on transparency and openness," Wilson said. "I think what I truly respect, and I can't say enough about both Erik and Mel, was that they shared with us upfront what the process was going to be and how they wanted it to go and we agreed with that. They needed time to get to know us and we wanted to get to know them. But the fact that they also made this decision and shared with us they would make this decision way ahead of July 1 means the world to us."

Karlsson, who played for a new team for the first time in his professional career last season, added that his Sharks' teammates played a role in his final decision.

"Everybody has shown it's a quality place to play for, everything from the coaches and especially my teammates," he said. "Getting to know them over the course of the whole year and seeing how dedicated they are to winning a Cup and wanting to be better at all times."

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San Jose still has a long list of pending free agents to tend to as the July 1 market opening comes up. But, at the very least, the Sharks were able to get one of their most important pending agents inked to a deal he's happy with.

"I feel like this the place where I want to be," Karlsson said. "This was a big decision for me, and at the end of the day, I know this is the best decision for me and my family."