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.

Sharks' roster hopefuls still 'auditioning' as regular season nears

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USATSI

Sharks' roster hopefuls still 'auditioning' as regular season nears

SAN JOSE - Yes, the Sharks have roster spots they need to fill. Nobody knows that better than Peter DeBoer.

So perhaps it was to be expected when the head coach said more than once after San Jose's first preseason game Tuesday night that he hasn't filled out his final roster for the Sharks' season-opener against the Vegas Golden Knights yet.

 "We're Game 1 into a tryout here," DeBoer said. "An audition. We're not handing out any jobs tonight."

You can't blame him for answering that way. He'd probably love it if everyone outside the team stopped trying to piece his roster together for him. 

Here's the thing: San Jose is just two games into the preseason and has rolled out two different lineups for each game. A roster for opening night will come together, but DeBoer hasn't settled on the exact pieces to that puzzle just yet.

Despite losing their first two preseason games, some of the Sharks' roster hopefuls have done some positive things. Jonny Brodzinski added an offensive punch in Tuesday's game against the Anaheim Ducks while Manuel Wiederer contributed two goals in Wednesday's game against the Calgary Flames. Ryan Merkley pitched in as a helper twice in his first preseason game while Joachim Blichfeld, Ivan Chekhovich and Lean Bergmann also have found the back of the net in the preseason.

Nevertheless, one preseason showing doesn't -- as DeBoer said -- guarantee anyone a starting job.

The Sharks are aware that replacing offensive depth left by the departures of Joe Pavelski, Gustav Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi is a process. In addition to scoring big goals, San Jose also has to be able to sustain offense through a full 60 minutes on a nightly basis. Through the first two games of the preseason, the team has had some difficulty doing this.

"I think we need to sustain more O-zone pressure," Brodzinski observed after Tuesday night's 4-3 loss to the Ducks, a game where the Sharks jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and then took their foot off the gas in the second stanza. "We didn't have a lot of it tonight. I felt like it was more of a neutral zone game. Then we played a little bit too much in our own zone. If we can play down there a lot more, we wouldn't be as tired coming into the late shifts there."

If the idea that San Jose hasn't filled out its roster just yet scares you, keep in mind -- neither preseason game has featured the Sharks' opening night roster. Heck, we haven't even seen Logan Couture, Erik Karlsson or Martin Jones suit up for a game yet. Many of the players who have played over the past two days will be starting the season playing for the Barracuda. 

Plus, even once the regular season gets underway, there still are going to be changes made to San Jose's roster as players move between the AHL and NHL in an effort to give the team the most dynamic lineup. Just think about how many times the lineup changed at the start of last season.

[RELATED: Sharks expecting Meier to step forward in wake of departures]

The Sharks have roughly a week and a half to get into fighting shape before opening night October 2, which includes four more preseason tune-ups that kick off on Saturday with a contest against the Golden Knights. It's very possible DeBoer will roll out a lineup consisting of a few more regular-season starters, along with a few players high on the list of opening night roster additions.

Just don't be surprised if Saturday's preseason game is just another step in the audition process for players on that list.

Sharks expecting Timo Meier to take step forward in wake of departures

Sharks expecting Timo Meier to take step forward in wake of departures

Individual progress of an NHL player should not always be measured in goals. 

Yet it’s hard to ignore Timo Meier’s production: 21 goals in his first full season, followed up by 30 last year. 

“He’s worked for everything he’s got,” Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said of Meier. “I think power forwards take a little bit longer. It’s a harder league for bigger guys playing that kind of game to establish themselves."

“His jump last year was incredible,” fellow forward Barclay Goodrow remarked. “He kind of turned into a whole new player, just more confident. He took some games over, shooting the puck and driving the net. Just things he does well at a better pace.” 

The Swiss-born winger has developed a full-fledged reputation for utilizing all six feet and 210 pounds he’s got. 

“I try to be a physical guy. Try to get in the areas where you might hurt, and try to score some dirty goals,” Meier said at training camp. “I want to get better, that’s always something I try to stay hungry on.” 

Timing plays a critical role in the development of a homegrown product like Meier. The Sharks were able to let him develop in the pipeline, and now he's thriving on the biggest stage. 

“He got there the right way,” DeBoer explained. “You’ve got a guy with a lot of confidence, we’ve added a couple minutes every year to his time on ice. He’s going to take another step this year with the guys that departed. We’re excited to see where he can go with it.” 

And that is the exciting question: Where can Meier take things this season? 

[RELATED: Why Sharks confident they can make up for lost firepower]

“I’m not a guy that wants to put out a number and say I have to score that many goals,” Meier admitted. “I just try to go out and be the best player I can for the team.”