Marcus White

After Erik Karlsson trade, Sharks in line for new defenseman pairings

After Erik Karlsson trade, Sharks in line for new defenseman pairings

SAN JOSE -- Since Peter DeBoer took over as Sharks coach ahead of the 2015-16 season, defenseman Brenden Dillon has played with plenty of partners. Seven defensive pairings have played 500 minutes of five-on-five hockey together in the regular season and playoffs during that stretch, according to Corsica Hockey, and Dillon has played for four. 

He’ll likely join a fifth this season. Dillon’s most regular partner over the last three seasons, Dylan DeMelo, now is in Ottawa after being traded to the Senators in the massive deal that brought two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson to San Jose last week. 

Dillon, like the rest of the Sharks' defensive corps, doesn’t know who he’ll skate with to start the season. But, he said, his experience regularly playing alongside many different players will prove beneficial when he does.

“I think it’ll be to my advantage for sure,” Dillon said Friday at the Sharks' practice facility. “I’m definitely excited. We don’t really know what the lineups are going to kind of shake out as exactly. I think even during the regular season in past years, too, you might start out with a certain guy and finish the game having played with all five guys. … There’s so many different variables.”

Dillon skated with defensive prospect Jeremy Roy on Friday. Marc-Edouard Vlasic paired with Karlsson for the third consecutive practice. Justin Braun, Vlasic’s regular partner to the tune of nearly 3800 regular-season and playoff minutes over the last three years, skated with Burns. 

At least in the Braun and Burns’ case, that was due to availability. Burns’ most common defensive partner last season, Joakim Ryan, played in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks, and thus skated in the second session. 

Still, it’s possible Braun will regularly play with someone other than Vlasic for the first time in years. The eight-year veteran last played with someone else for more than 500 five-on-five minutes during the 2013-14 season, when he logged just under 505 such minutes with now-retired defenseman Brad Stuart. 

Braun said there won’t be a big learning curve if he plays with someone other than Vlasic, since he’s played spot minutes with just about everyone else (other than Karlsson). Braun said he’d hope to play a couple preseason games with a new partner, but that practice might be an ideal time to learn their tendencies and develop chemistry. 

“You can learn anywhere,” Braun said. “There’s drills set up where there’s a lot of forechecking. You might chip [the puck], and he’s not there, and you kind of talk about it after. That might be the best place since they’re not scoring goals on you where it counts.”

It might be awhile before DeBoer provides a glimpse into his potential pairings. Karlsson will not play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights at SAP Center, and the Sharks will not cut camp down to one group of up to 26 players (five forward lines, four defensive pairs, and three goaltenders) until Tuesday or Wednesday. 

After Saturday, San Jose will play three more preseason games before hosting Anaheim in the regular-season opener Oct. 3. Who Karlsson, and the rest of the defense, play with then is still to be determined, according to DeBoer. 

“We’ll see,” DeBoer said when asked if he envisioned Karlsson and Vlasic as a long-term possibility. “We’ve had a couple practices, but honestly I’ve got a bunch of different things rolling around in my head. The nice thing about getting [Karlsson] now is that it’s not a trade deadline where you’ve basically got six weeks to figure it out.”

DeBoer added that he hopes his pairings that open the season will stick together stick throughout the season, but he knows the nature of a long schedule will require changes. As Braun and Dillon both noted, that can happen during the ebb and flow of an individual game, too.

No matter who plays with whom, Dillon said he’s confident any new-look pairings will be able to become comfortable. 

“I think that’s just going to come with time,” Dillon said. “But, for us as a group, I think we can all cover for each other if we’re struggling a bit. At the same time, I think when we’re all going well, it’s going to be a tough group to beat.”

The pre-trade meeting that made Erik Karlsson excited about Sharks

The pre-trade meeting that made Erik Karlsson excited about Sharks

SAN JOSE -- Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was in Ottawa last week to meet with defenseman Erik Karlsson before acquiring him in a blockbuster trade with the Senators. It turns out head coach Peter DeBoer met with Karlsson, too. 

DeBoer, alongside Wilson, met the two-time Norris Trophy winner and his wife, Melinda, in Toronto “maybe a day” before the trade was finalized, he told reporters Wednesday after the day’s first practice session of training camp. The purpose, DeBoer said, was to give Karlsson a a sense of what the Sharks had to offer. 

“It’s a huge investment for the organization,” DeBoer said Wednesday morning. “It’s a huge investment from him and his wife to commit to coming out here and playing here. It was a great information session, and I think we all walked out of there really impressed with the player and the person.”

It’s fair to say Karlsson came away impressed, too.

“I think from that day on, both of our views kind of matched up, and I was extremely excited about everything they had to say,” Karlsson told reporters at his introductory press conference Wednesday. “They were great people right from the start.”

“And they’re still great people,” he added with a laugh. 

After the meeting, the Sharks sealed the deal last Thursday. They acquired Karlsson in a deal that sent two roster players, two prospects, two draft picks, and two more conditional picks to the Senators. 

Before the deal was completed, the Senators gave the Sharks permission to meet with Karlsson, Wilson said Wednesday after the press conference. Karlsson and his wife also spoke with Sharks owner Hasso Plattner several times, Wilson first told reporters Saturday. 

Wilson credited Plattner with giving him and the front office the ability to take go after “difference-makers” like Karlsson, and Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares, whom the Sharks met with ahead of the start of free agency. 

Plattner was in the room when San Jose pitched Tavares at the CAA offices in July, and Wilson said previously that the owner keeps up-to-date with just about everything the team does, even down to the recent rookie tournament in Las Vegas. Karlsson said Wednesday that Plattner’s knowledge stood out. 

“Speaking with [Plattner] was very reassuring,” Karlsson said. “He knew what he was talking about, and he was a very well-spoken man. Hopefully, I get to meet him soon.”

Meeting the owner, head coach, and general manager ultimately made Karlsson comfortable with coming to San Jose, and vice versa. Although Wilson said he would not discuss contract negotiations, he reiterated Wednesday he felt “very comfortable” about locking up the 28-year-old to a long-term extension. 

Karlsson declined to discuss a possible extension as well, keeping the focus of his introductory press conference largely on the upcoming season. But, he said he was grateful that Plattner, Wilson, and DeBoer made the trade “as smooth as it possibly could’ve been.”

“[My wife and I] are extremely happy and excited to finally be here, soak it all in, and start our new adventure," Karlsson said.

Erik Karlsson sees move to Sharks as 'extremely motivating challenge'

Erik Karlsson sees move to Sharks as 'extremely motivating challenge'

SAN JOSE -- While the Sharks and their fans waited on pins and needles over the last six days for Erik Karlsson to report to training camp, the defenseman had to tie up some loose ends. There were people to see, luggage to pack, paperwork to fill out, and even a little golf to play.

By the time Karlsson flew to San Jose and landed late Tuesday night, he said he was more than ready. 

“By the time everything got sorted, it felt like it was time to leave and I was extremely excited to finally get here,” Karlsson said Wednesday afternoon in his introductory press conference at the downtown Hilton. 

Last Thursday’s blockbuster trade marked the end of Karlsson’s nine-season stint with the Ottawa Senators, the only team he’s ever played for. In nearly a decade in the Canadian capital, Karlsson grew into one of the game’s best defenseman, winning two Norris Trophies and becoming a perennial All-Star. 

Karlsson was emotional addressing the Ottawa media in the trade’s immediate aftermath, but he officially turned the page on his career Wednesday. The 28-year-old practiced with the Sharks for the first time in the morning, and put on a teal, No. 65 jersey in front of the cameras later that afternoon. 

He told reporters that afternoon that he was looking forward to the opportunity to start fresh.

“I see this as an extremely motivating challenge to grow as a player and as a person,” Karlsson said. “I think, from everything so far, I’m going to have a great opportunity to do that here.”

Karlsson skated alongside defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic in most drills Wednesday morning. He even played with fellow Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns -- and captain Joe Pavelski -- during an extended three-on-three scrimmage at the end of practice, and joked that the experience was “not too shabby.”

[RELATED: Key stats explain Karlsson's dominance]

The Swede, who is entering the final season of a six-year deal and can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, demurred again when asked about the possibility of signing a long-term contract extension to stay in San Jose. He told reporters that he’s not yet looking beyond the upcoming season. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson would not comment on Karlsson extension talks, either.

That shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise. Karlsson just moved to a new team, in a new city, and in a different conference, to boot. He seemed almost relieved to be done with the move, and to be able to play once again.

“That’s the big thing that’s resonated with me,” Wilson said. “He’s not worried about anything else. He just wants to get in and be a good teammate, and get going.” 

The Sharks will play their second preseason game Thursday, but it’s unlikely Karlsson will suit up. That’ll be just his second day with the team, and the coaching staff wants to use that game to evaluate some of the young players still in camp.

San Jose won’t need to rush to integrate a player of Karlsson’s caliber, and he didn’t seem to mind the pace Wednesday. 

“They gave me the space that I needed, and at the same time, they gave me the comfort of letting me know that they were here if I needed anything,” Karlsson said. 

“I think it was a perfect first day, and I’m excited to get up tomorrow and go back to the rink.”