What Erik Karlsson re-signing says about Sharks in Bret Hedican's eyes

What Erik Karlsson re-signing says about Sharks in Bret Hedican's eyes

Six days before he could have begun speaking with other teams and two weeks before he could have signed with one, Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson chose to stay put.

The 29-year-old signed an eight-year contract with San Jose on Monday, opting to forego unrestricted free agency. The only active defenseman with two Norris Trophies and the highest-scoring blue liner since he entered the league a decade ago, Karlsson likely would have had no shortage of suitors this summer.

He said Monday that re-signing was his top priority headed into the offseason, and NBC Sports California analyst Bret Hedican thinks it's a testament to what the Sharks have built that the Swedish defenseman skipped out on the free-agent frenzy entirely.

"I just thought for sure with all the options he was going to have in July that maybe he'd test the water," Hedican said in an interview Monday morning. "But it just speaks to (general manager) Doug Wilson and (majority owner) Hasso Plattner and obviously the coaching staff, everything that has gone on throughout the course of the year with Karlsson being here that he was impressed enough with everybody and the situation where he's at to sign a long-term deal."

Hedican played 1,039 NHL games, winning a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 before retiring three years later. He was 38 in his last season in the league, and Karlsson will be 37 when his contract expires in 2027. Hedican said he thought Karlsson likely learned a lot this season about how he'll need to take care of his body as he gets older, and so he can withstand the rigors of an 82-game regular season and deep playoff runs.

Karlsson played 53 regular-season games, missing 27 down the stretch due to groin issues that required offseason surgery.

What will help Karlsson as he ages is his quick thinking and decision-making. Hedican likened the defenseman's hockey IQ to a modern computer processor.

"You remember when we first got computers, the processor wasn't very fast," Hedican said. "You had to wait to get things done. Now, you've got these [processors] that you hit one stroke of the key, and all these things just happen in a matter of split seconds, right? That's the processor that Erik Karlsson has.

"When you can lock a guy down like that, you just don't get the opportunities like that every day."

Karlsson will not be tasked with leading the blue line alone, especially offensively. Brent Burns, a Norris Trophy finalist who just set a career-high in points this season (83), is under contract for six more years. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, meanwhile, becomes a free agent a year after Burns.

[RELATED: What Karlsson re-signing means for Sharks moving forward]

Burns, Karlsson and Vlasic, respectively, finished No. 1 and No. 2 among the Sharks in ice time during the regular season and playoffs. Karlsson and Burns played together at times on offensive-zone faceoffs at even strength or when the Sharks were pushing to tie games late, in addition to sharing time on the power play.

Hedican said the two got some of the growing pains out of the way last season, but that the shared understanding between the duo has to continue to develop for the Sharks to contend now and moving forward.

"You have to understand that through the 82 games that maybe you're not gonna get 22 minutes one night, maybe you get 18," Hedican said. " ... I think understanding that, and having these two players work together throughout the course of an 82-game year, learning how to play with one another -- and without one another -- is gonna be important."

Watch Sharks' Evander Kane score first-period hat trick, make history


Watch Sharks' Evander Kane score first-period hat trick, make history

Evander Kane's second career hat trick was a first for the Sharks. 

The San Jose winger scored three goals in the first period Wednesday against the Carolina Hurricanes at SAP Center, becoming the first player in franchise history to score a hat trick in the opening 20 minutes. 

Kane opened the scoring 8:36 into the night, gathering a loose puck in the slot and firing a shot past Hurricanes goaltender -- and former Shark -- James Reimer.

The Hurricanes tied the game just over two minutes later, but Kane gave the Sharks the lead once more with a power-play goal. Kane scored his second shortly after Reimer robbed him with a glove save that the winger contended crossed the goal line. 

It didn't end up mattering, as Kane capitalized on another loose puck in the slot for his second goal with 2:41 remaining in the first period. 

Kane scored his third fewer than two-and-a-half minutes after his second. With the Sharks on the power play once more, a wide-open Kane redirected Brent Burns' point shot past Reimer to double San Jose's lead. 

[RELATED: Sharks' Labanc keeping focus on future after team's turnaround]

Kane's three first-period goals were the most the Sharks have scored in a single period all season. The 3-1 advantage they took into the first intermission was just the second lead the Sharks have had after the first 20 minutes all season. 

The Sharks probably won't have to wait as long for their next first-period lead as they did for their first first-period hat trick. 

Sharks face 'big test' vs. Hurricanes as they seek third straight win

Sharks face 'big test' vs. Hurricanes as they seek third straight win

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks appear to be bouncing back from a dismal start to their season with two wins in a row. But they face new challenges as they continue their homestand against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"It's a big test for us," head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters during Wednesday's morning skate. "You just look at the analytics. Number one in the league in creating scoring chances off of the rush, in the top two or three of creating offense. They're scoring in bunches. (There are) a lot of different things there you're going to have to deal with -- maybe the best defense corps in the league one through six, and they're getting great goaltending. That's why their record is what it is."

Of course, San Jose is looking to jump on the Canes early, especially since the Sharks are hosting and playing on the tail-end of a back-to-back. They beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 in LA on Tuesday night. But when a team is as good as Carolina is, there's a little more to it.

"We just can't beat ourselves," DeBoer said. "We know what they do well. It's exactly like when we play playoff hockey against an opponent. You've got to take away what they do well or not feed what they do well. And at the same time, try to establish our own game. That's something I've talked about since day one."

Multiple Sharks contributed to the team's 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday. Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Kevin Labanc all found the back of the net while Martin Jones stopped 29 of 30 shots that came his way and the penalty kill went a perfect four-for-four. But DeBoer knows his team's overall game still has another level it needs to find.

"We won the last game and I thought we were better defensively," he said. "But we only generated 20 shots, We've got to find a way to start getting a four-line identity where we're harder to play against and spend more time in the other team's end."

[RELATED: Kevin Labanc focused on future during turnaround]

The Hurricanes visit SAP Center with a 6-1-0 overall record on the season and are undefeated through three road contests.

San Jose went 1-0-1 against Carolina last season, tallying their solo win at home 5-1. The Sharks are 20-17-0-3 all-time through 40 games against the Hurricanes.