Sharks

Why Erik Karlsson re-signed with Sharks, passed on NHL free agency

Why Erik Karlsson re-signed with Sharks, passed on NHL free agency

The 2019 NHL All-Star Game might have been more meaningful than you realized.

It wasn't because the Sharks hosted the event at San Jose's SAP Center for the first time since 1997, or even because the Sharks had an NHL-leading three representatives. No, it was because of what the event ultimately signified to defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Five months before re-signing with the Sharks for eight years on Monday, Karlsson was still in the middle of his first season in San Jose and about a week removed from injuring his groin for the first time. He missed three games before the All-Star Game -- and the first six after -- because of the injury, but he played in the All-Star Game on home ice because it was important for San Jose's fans. 

And ultimately, San Jose was important to him, he told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil in a 1-on-1 interview Monday.

"If the All-Star Game would have been somewhere else, I most likely would have not played," Karlsson said. "But I do think that having an All-Star Game at home means a lot for the organization and the fanbase, and I felt like that was something I was possibly going to be a part of for a very long time, so it meant a lot to me and I wanted to do that. So yeah, when you look back at it, I don't even think that I fully understood at the time what it really meant, but ... we felt connected to this organization since we got here."

In a conference call with reporters Monday morning, Karlsson repeatedly mentioned how the Sharks gave him the time and space to get comfortable with his new surroundings, and ultimately make a decision about his future. Before a Sept. 13 trade brought him to San Jose on the eve of training camp, the Senators were the only NHL team he had played for. Ottawa had become his home.

It was a position Sharks general manager Doug Wilson knew well. Before joining San Jose ahead of its inaugural NHL season in 1991-92, Wilson had spent the entirety of his career in Chicago. His wife is from there, just as Karlsson's is from Ottawa. As a result, Wilson knew how important it was to let Karlsson acclimate, despite the defenseman being in the final season of his contract.

After all, Karlsson entered the season as the only active defenseman to win the Norris Trophy twice and is the leading scorer at his position since making his NHL debut in 2009. Although the aforementioned groin injuries hampered him in 53 regular-season games and the ensuing playoff run, Karlsson would have had suitors in free agency -- look no further than the New York Rangers acquiring right-shooting defenseman (and pending restricted free agent) Jacob Trouba hours after Karlsson re-signed with the Sharks.

But Karlsson didn't want to let things get that far, and if he did, he told Brazil he still would have had San Jose in mind.

"I think that speaks to how everything transpired since the Sharks acquired me," Karlsson said. " ... I think that ever since I got here we've had a great relationship and if I, by any chance, wanted to test the free-agency market, I would have let them know as early as I possibly could because I do understand that there's a lot of things that need to be done, and a lot of things that require a lot of time, so I wanted to give them the most time that they possibly could to have the best team that they possibly can."

[RELATED: Sharks to face Pacific rivals throughout 2019 preseason]

Karlsson told Brazil he is happy to be a big part of the Sharks trying to do just that. Wilson said Karlsson's decision gives San Jose's offseason clarity, even as the general manager is faced with other tough choices in building out the roster this season and beyond. 

But Karlsson, a six-time All-Star, now is in the fold for the foreseeable future. And as a result, his latest All-Star appearance could be remembered for much more than just a midseason exhibition.

How to watch 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show for Sharks live online

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NBC Sports California

How to watch 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show for Sharks live online

The NHL trade deadline is upon us, and rumors are flying everywhere. The Sharks are well out of the Western Conference playoff picture, and might be looking to sell off some of their best assets ahead of Monday’s deadline at noon PT.

It has been a nightmare season for San Jose, who almost certainly will miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2015. Significant injuries to captain Logan Couture, forward Tomas Hertl and defenseman Erik Karlsson, along with teamwide underachievement, plant the Sharks firmly in the “sellers” bucket heading into the deadline.

General manager Doug Wilson already has traded defenseman Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals and could be looking to make more moves as the deadline approaches.

“Sharks Pre and Postgame Live” host Brodie Brazil will join NHL experts from the NBC Sports regional networks to analyze the trade deadline on the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show, which will stream on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com. The show will air Monday at 11:30 a.m. PT, and you can join the conversation on Twitter using the hasting #NHLtradeNBC.

[RELATED: Everything Sharks fans need to know before trade deadline]

Here’s how you can watch the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show online.

Date: Monday, Feb. 24
Time: 11:30 a.m. PT
Live stream: MyTeams app and Desktop Stream

NHL trade deadline: What Sharks fans need to know before dealing ends

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AP

NHL trade deadline: What Sharks fans need to know before dealing ends

The Sharks are in a somewhat unfamiliar spot this trade deadline. 

San Jose almost certainly will not make the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2015, making general manager Doug Wilson a seller heading into the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Wilson already has got the ball rolling puck dropped on this process, shipping out defenseman Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday for a pair of draft picks. The return left a bit to be desired, as my comrade in content Brian Witt argued after the deal, but Dillon's departure formally marked the beginning of Wilson's re-tooling as he looks to get the Sharks back in playoff contention next season. 

Who could be on their way out? Which contenders have salary-cap space to burn? Here are the answers to the most pressing questions headed into Monday's deadline. 

When is the NHL trade deadline?

Monday, Feb. 24 at noon PT. 

How much salary-cap space do the Sharks have?

The fine folks at Cap Friendly project the Sharks will have $6,431,667 in salary-cap space at the deadline. The Sharks have not yet placed defenseman Erik Karlsson on long-term injured reserve, according to the site, and placing his $11.5 million cap hit on LTIR would give San Jose a significant amount of room to work with. 

Who are the pending unrestricted free agents on the roster? 

Forwards Melker Karlsson ($2 million cap hit), Joe Thornton ($2 million), Patrick Marleau ($700,000), Stefan Noesen ($700,000), defensemen Tim Heed ($960,000), Radim Simek ($675,000) and goaltender Aaron Dell ($1.9 million) all can become UFAs on July 1. 

Who is most likely to get traded? 

Karlsson seems to be the likeliest candidate. He's a versatile bottom-six forward with three seasons of 10-plus goals who spends a lot of time on the penalty kill. The Swedish winger is not going to command a haul, but he's exactly the kind of player rival GMs with Stanley Cup aspirations give up a mid-round pick for at the deadline. But Karlsson left the Prudential Center in a walking boot after the Sharks' loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, according to The Athletic's Kevin Kurz, and the severity of the injury will determine what kind of return -- if any -- San Jose could fetch for the forward.

The Sharks seem to view Simek as part of their future on the blue line, while Noesen has scored just five goals in 24 games with San Jose since the Pittsburgh Penguins waived him earlier this season. Dell, Marleau and Thornton are intriguing trade possibilities, however. 

The latter two wouldn't bring back much in a trade, but could the 40-year-olds compel a contender to pull a Ray Bourque and trade for a franchise icon in the twilight of his career? The call will be Marleau and Thornton's, especially in the latter case given the trade protection in his contract. 

Dell has seized the reigns as the Sharks' starter in net, and San Jose's handling of him at the deadline will make it clear how the team views him heading into the 2020-21 season. The Sharks won't trade him if they see him as their starter next year, but it could be prudent to maximize the return if they don't. They'll be worse in the short-term, increasing the likelihood the Ottawa Senators draft a top prospect with one of the picks the Sharks traded for Erik Karlsson, but that shouldn't weigh into their decision since that's the risk you run when you don't lottery-protect a pick. 

What about the rest of the Sharks' roster?

The Sharks are going to finish a mile out of the playoffs, and they have a lot of big money on the books. They are paying eight players at least $5 million: Two are done for the year (Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl), one is working his way back from injury (Logan Couture) and four of the five players have some kind of trade protection (Evander Kane, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones). Could the Sharks clear a star's salary at the deadline? 

Wilson told reporters Tuesday that the Sharks have "the bones in place" of a playoff team next season, and it's difficult to envision San Jose reaching that goal without most of those contracts -- or equivalent players at different positions with similar salaries -- on the books. The Sharks tinkered around the edges of the roster in 2015 when they last missed the playoffs, saving the splash for the summer in trading for Jones. 

Don't bet on the Sharks trading a big name -- or a prospect for a big name -- Monday, and save your predictions for NHL draft weekend in late June.

[RELATED: Hannan explains what Dillon, Sharks are going through]

Who are the contenders to keep an eye on?

Any team in the Stanley Cup playoffs is a possibility, but some teams are worth monitoring more than others. Below is a non-exhaustive list of contenders who could call Wilson before Monday. 

  • Colorado Avalanche: The Avs currently have more salary-cap space than any team in playoff position (over $25.5 million as of this writing, per Cap Friendly), and top-six forwards Mikko Rantanen and Nazem Kadri currently are on injured reserve. NHL executives reportedly believe the Avalanche could be a fit for Thornton, and he wouldn't add any long-term money to Colorado's books. 
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford told The Athletic that he is "looking for a bottom-six guy who can give us depth, fit in on different lines, give us some balance." That could be Melker Karlsson, if healthy, though Pittsburgh's lack of 2020 picks and subpar farm system mean Wilson should have better options elsewhere.  
  • Vegas Golden Knights: The Sharks have never traded with their division rivals, but Peter DeBoer now is behind the Golden Knights' bench. Vegas is right up against the cap, even with Alex Tuch on LTIR. San Jose would be able to retain salary on each of its pending free agents, or even take back a matching contract. Could the Knights be a Karlsson fit, given his history with DeBoer? 
  • Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes and lackluster goaltending have gone together like peanut butter and jelly over the last half-decade, and this year is no different. Carolina is in the bottom third of the league in 5-on-5 save percentage while in a fierce fight for the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot. The Canes reportedly are interested in Chicago netminder Robin Lehner, and Dell would be a cheaper fallback option -- if the Sharks actually decide to trade him. 
  • Nashville Predators: Calling the Predators "contenders" is generous, but Nashville still has a path to the postseason. The Predators, like the Sharks, fired their coach earlier this season in hopes of meeting preseason expectations. Could Preds GM David Poile pull the trigger on a blockbuster, and possibly for one of the Sharks' aforementioned big contracts? Nashville seems like as good an option as any to pull off something surprising this deadline. 

 

Programming Note: The "2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show" is coming your way this Monday, Feb. 24 at 11:30am on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the Noon deadline? Don’t miss it!