What Erik Karlsson contract with Sharks means for rest of offseason

What Erik Karlsson contract with Sharks means for rest of offseason

Doug Wilson checked off a major part of his summer to-do list Monday morning.

Defenseman Erik Karlsson signed an eight-year contract with the Sharks on Monday, two weeks before he could have hit unrestricted free agency. With Karlsson locked up for the foreseeable future, San Jose's general manager told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil that the deal provides a lot more certainty headed into a key stretch of the offseason. 

"All I can say is having got this piece done today certainly allows our next three weeks, or four weeks, to be a little bit more structured," Wilson told Brazil. "But, it would have been very difficult with this unknown piece going to July 1 and everything up in the air. It doesn't mean we don't have tough decisions, but this is a very, very big piece that makes us a better hockey team both today and long-term."

Many of those tough decisions center around the Sharks' remaining pending free agents. Captain Joe Pavelski can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, as can wingers Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist. After posting career years, wingers Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are set for restricted free agency. Joe Thornton, meanwhile, is pondering his playing future.

With Karlsson reportedly locked up for an annual salary-cap hit of $11.5 million as the highest-paid defenseman in the NHL/player in franchise history, Wilson has around $12.5 million in cap space to work with this offseason. That wouldn't appear to leave enough wiggle room for all of the Sharks' potential free agents, let alone most of them.

Wilson told Brazil that those choices are the cost of doing business in a salary-capped league. The Sharks have chosen to prioritize their blue line, with Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic all under contract for at least the next six seasons, and the center position, as Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture are locked up for nearly $14 million combined over the next three seasons. That foundation is what's most important to Wilson.

"Our job is to give ourselves the best chance to win every year," Wilson said. "And having said that, you've got to be strong in certain positions. I've never heard anybody say, 'we've got too much good pitching," for example. ... When you've got guys like Couture and Hertl and we've had the benefit of having one of the greatest in Jumbo, and then you've got three Norris-caliber defensemen, it allows you to do a lot of other things.

"You're always gonna have to have young players coming in. You're always gonna have to make choices and decisions, and it all is gonna have to fit in under the cap. At the same time, players have choices too and that's the journey that we're on right now and a cap system dictates that."

[RELATED: What Karlsson re-signing could mean for Sharks' D next season]

The 2019 NHL Draft begins Friday in Vancouver, and it has the potential to be a very busy weekend. Wilson reiterated to Brazil that he has noticed "more buzz" around the league than any other point during his 15-and-a-half years atop the Sharks front office. San Jose doesn't have a pick in either of the first two rounds, but it's possible Wilson begins to make some of the tough decisions that he alluded to.

But with Karlsson's contract resolved, it sounds like Wilson will be able to chart the Sharks' offseason course with greater clarity.

Sharks' Stefan Noesen dealing with extra uncertainty in coronavirus pandemic


Sharks' Stefan Noesen dealing with extra uncertainty in coronavirus pandemic

Sharks forward Stefan Noesen is isolating with immediate family in his home state of Texas during the coronavirus pandemic.

And he’s slightly bored.

“You can only do so many lunges at your house, so many laps around the neighborhood,” Noesen said with a laugh in a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports California on Tuesday.

The NHL’s suspended season is par for the uphill course of Noesen's current campaign.

It began with a professional tryout in the Dallas Stars organization, which didn’t pan out. He then played 22 AHL games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, which led to signing a two-way contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 2nd. They waived him shortly before Christmas.

“This year has been a s---t-show, legit,” Noesen said. “Up until being with the Sharks.”

That turning point definitely happened in San Jose. Even during the Sharks' down season, Noesen came in and earned a role, plus the respect to go along with it.

“First thing I did when I got (to San Jose), was meet with [general manager Doug Wilson],” Noesen said. “He told me what he expected of me, which was honestly nothing but to go out and play my game.”

That game resonated, with Noesen scoring six goals in 34 games. And now, there's a lot of fans who would like to see him re-signed for next season.

“I’ve always believed it’s not that hard to be a good guy,” Noesen said. “All you have to got is be yourself, treat others with respect, and find a way to get along with everybody.”

[RELATED: Sharks' restocked draft picks, college signings offer hope]

There's a lot of uncertainty for Noesen’s career at this point, like when and where he will play hockey next. But these life-changing times have also even made him ponder what comes after the game.

“The world has kind of taken things for granted up until now,” Noesen said. “And I think everyone is kind of taking a step back and realizing the little things are actually important.

“The minute that we’re able to go back to whatever life is after this, I think it will be interesting.“

Sharks suddenly in better position with draft picks, college signings

Sharks suddenly in better position with draft picks, college signings

Given the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we could all use a bit of a pick-me-up right now. It's understandably difficult, but focusing on what bright spots there are will help us get through this unprecedented time.

Taking the glass-half-full approach shouldn't be new to Sharks fans. They had a few months head start before the team's disappointing season was indefinitely paused.

Yes, it was clear early on that it was going to be a tough season in San Jose. The Sharks dropped their first four games of the season, and turned to former captain Patrick Marleau to get back on track. After a strong November, San Jose undid it all with a putrid December, and at that point, it became easy to focus on all of the things the franchise didn't have. The most notable absence was that of hope.

One by one, the Sharks' best players went down with severe season-ending injuries. One of them -- Erik Karlsson -- was like a double punch to the gut. Not only would San Jose not have the benefit of having the former Norris Trophy winner in the lineup, but the cost it took to acquire him -- including the Sharks' unprotected 2020 first-round draft pick -- looked disproportionally painful. Every team in the league would have made that trade for Karlsson -- and signed him to the same eight-year contract extension -- but nearly everything that occurred from that point on was a string of bad luck for San Jose.

There was an upside to losing all of those top players, though. Whatever lingering hopes of a playoff run existed soon went out the window. The Sharks and general manager Doug Wilson could turn their attention to the future, and that's exactly what they did.

In sending Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals, Marleau to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Barclay Goodrow to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline, Wilson overhauled the Sharks' cupboard of draft picks in both quality and quantity. He acquired four picks -- including a 2020 first-rounder -- that will fall within the first three rounds, and San Jose now has seven selections in each of the next three drafts.

Those will come in very handy as the Sharks try to get back into contention -- and stay there. Sustained success is built through young, controllable assets, and the draft is the best way to acquire them.

That said, there are always some prospects that fall between the cracks. Brinson Pasichnuk was one such prospect who was never drafted, yet became one of the best players throughout all of NCAA Division I hockey. The Arizona State standout agreed to join the Sharks organization, Wilson announced Tuesday, adding to San Jose's collection of promising young defensemen, including Mario Ferraro and Ryan Merkley.

[RELATED: Sharks' Ferraro moved in with parents during NHL pause]

Shortly after Pasichnuck agreed to join the Sharks, Hobey Baker Award finalist John Leonard did the same. Leonard, San Jose's sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, tallied 105 points over 106 career games at UMass Amherst. He had the option of returning to school for his senior season, but had little left to prove at the collegiate level. While he isn't a new prospect to the Sharks' system, it's nonetheless a positive development for San Jose.

Two months ago, the Sharks' future appeared as bleak as it had in nearly two decades. Since then, however, they've taken several steps in the right direction, and there is considerably more reason for hope.

We can all use a little of that right now.