Ottawa Senators

Erik Karlsson: New Sharks defenseman explained in four key stats

Erik Karlsson: New Sharks defenseman explained in four key stats

The moment has arrived. After almost a week of waiting, Wednesday marks the beginning of defenseman Erik Karlsson’s time with the Sharks.  

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has made it clear he wants to lock up the Swedish superstar for a long time, and the Sharks have emerged as one of the league’s most intriguing teams after acquiring the two-time Norris Trophy winner. 

So what, exactly, is all the hubbub about? Here a four stats and figures that describe just what kind of player he is. 

96

Since entering the league in 2009, that’s how many more points Karlsson has scored than the next closest defenseman, Florida Panthers blueliner Keith Yandle. In fact, Karlsson’s 518 points through his first nine NHL seasons are more than all but 10 defensemen in league history. One of those 10? Doug Wilson.

That’s impressive, regardless of context, but it’s worth remembering that Karlsson plays in a much different era than those ahead of him. Goaltending is better right now than it’s ever been, indicated by the fact that each of Karlsson’s nine NHL seasons rank in the top-12 by average save percentage. When you adjust for era, the start of Karlsson’s career is even more impressive.

Among defensemen in their first nine seasons, Karlsson ranks fifth in Hockey Reference’s adjusted points (576). He’s third in adjusted assists (431), only behind Bobby Orr (593) and Paul Coffey (477). In other words: Karlsson is a generational offensive talent. 

114

There is, perhaps, no better number to encapsulate Karlsson’s unique combination of vision and playmaking ability. 114 is approximately how many feet this saucer pass traveled off of Karlsson’s stick and into the path of a wide-open Mike Hoffman during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

That was the last time Karlsson and the Senators made the playoffs, finishing a double-overtime goal away from facing the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final. Playing on an ankle that ultimately required offseason surgery, Karlsson led Ottawa with 18 points in 19 games, 13 of which came at even strength.

After a disastrous season, both Hoffman and Karlsson are no longer in Ottawa. The Sharks briefly acquired Hoffman this summer, and flipped him to the Florida Panthers hours later. The trades came days after the Ottawa Citizen reported that Karlsson’s wife, Melinda, filed an order of protection after Hoffman’s fiancee allegedly harassed her repeatedly online. 

Plus-4.35 

243 defenseman have logged 3000, five-on-five minutes since the start of the 2009-10 season. Of that group, only five players have posted a better adjusted corsi-for percentage relative to their teammates than Karlsson’s mark of plus-4.35, according to Corsica Hockey.

What does that mean? When Karlsson was on the ice, the Senators attempted 52.05 percent of the shots. When his teammates were on the ice without him, that number fell to 48.7 percent. 4.35, then, is the difference in those percentages, and its positive value means his teammates attempted a smaller share of shots when they weren't playing with him.

The gap was especially stark in Karlsson’s last season in the Canadian capital. Last season, Ottawa just about broke even with him on the ice, and attempted 49.68 percent of the shots. Meanwhile, the Senators attempted only 44.9 percent of the shots without him. That latter mark would have been dead-last out of 31 teams in the league last year. 

33.98

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns is also a Norris Trophy winner (2017), and since the bearded blueliner moved back to the position in 2014-15, only Karlsson (281) has scored more points (278). This number equals their combined shot attempts per hour of five-on-five play over that span. 

Burns ranks first (20.06) by the metric among defenseman (min. 1000 minutes) during that time, while Karlsson (13.86) ranks sixth, per Corsica Hockey. No two defenseman on the same team (as of this writing) eclipse that combined total. 

The Sharks, for reference, attempted 58.49 five-on-five shots per hour over the last four seasons. Plugging in Karlsson doesn’t mean San Jose will attempt nearly 14 more shots per 60 minutes, but it does mean they’ll be able to rely on the two blueliners to put a lot of pucks on net this season.

On Wednesday, be sure to watch Erik Karlsson’s first practice with the Sharks at approximately 10:30 a.m., streaming live at facebook.com/nbcsauthentic. At 3 p.m., tune into Karlsson’s introductory press conference on NBC Sports California and also streaming live at facebook.com/nbcsauthentic.

Doug Wilson had 'oar in the water' in Sharks' pursuit of Erik Karlsson trade

Doug Wilson had 'oar in the water' in Sharks' pursuit of Erik Karlsson trade

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson had a good reason to be in his hometown Thursday. He was meeting with his newest defenseman, Erik Karlsson.

"It's one of those deals when you're dealing with a trade at this level, you want to be on the ground, and be there in person in case anything needs to be addressed," Wilson said from Ottawa in a phone interview Thursday on The Happy Hour.

The massive deal, which sent four players, two draft picks and conditional draft picks to Ottawa in exchange for Karlsson, capped off months of discussions. Wilson said the Sharks first spoke to the Senators at last season's trade deadline, and Sportsnet's John Shannon reported Thursday that San Jose "had a deal in principle done" with Ottawa back then. Senators winger Bobby Ryan told the Ottawa Sun in May that he heard a deal was done to send himself and Karlsson to a Western Conference team, but "somebody backed out at the last second."

Karlsson told reporters Thursday that he didn't know how close he was to moving at the deadline, adding that he "was watching TV just like everybody else." But Wilson stayed in touch with the Senators, and said the teams reached a deal because Ottawa was looking to get something done quickly.

"You always want to keep your oar in the water when it comes to game-changers and difference-makers, so we just kept in contact," Wilson said. "Sometimes, the team that has the player will dictate the timeline. I think Ottawa explored [a deal] at the trade deadline and were probably looking at wanting to do the deal before the season started. So you could just sense that the urgency was picking up, and for the last several weeks, we've been in conversations."

Karlsson was emotional at his final press conference in Ottawa and told reporters there he "never wanted to leave" the Canadian capital. The two-time Norris Trophy winner kept quiet about a possible extensionbut Wilson said on The Happy Hour that he was confident the franchise and Karlsson would be a long-term match. 

"You go and research the player, you research what he's looking for, and then if you have the things he's looking for, it minimizes that risk," Wilson said. "We look at Erik much like we looked at Evander [Kane in May], as a guy who fits now and in the future age-wise, style of game ... We're in the mode of trying to win right now, and I think that's something that's attractive to him.

"You have to make it be a place the player wants to play, filling in all of the ingredients that they're looking for in their decision-making process. He's expressed that to us, that we are a place he'd like to be, and same thing [for] us back to him. We'd love him to be here long term."

The Sharks are set to have just over $25.5 million in salary cap space next summer -- assuming the cap does not increase -- with 10 players under contract. When his contract extension kicks in after this season, Los Angeles Kings blueliner Drew Doughty will be the league's highest-paid defenseman in terms of cap hit ($11 million). 

Still, Wilson sounded confident in the Sharks' ability to keep Karlsson beyond this season. 

"I don't comment on contract negotiations, but I will say that we've had extensive conversations with his agents, and we feel extremely comfortable making this deal today with where we're sitting," Wilson said. "Now that he's our property, we can spend a lot of time with him and continue those discussions."

Tearful Erik Karlsson 'never wanted to leave' Senators

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USATSI

Tearful Erik Karlsson 'never wanted to leave' Senators

The Sharks acquiring star defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Senators on Thursday shook the hockey world. Karlsson too was shocked by the news. 

Once the trade became official, Karlsson took to the podium in Ottawa to address the media. The two-time Norris Trophy winner fought back tears while taking questions. 

“I think they made it very clear in what direction they were going [in],” Karlsson said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t part of that, and I respect that. It’s their decision and I wish them nothing but the best. I think that they’re going to do wonderful things.

"They have a good group of guys down there that are extremely motivated to keep pushing forward and doing whatever they have to do to be successful, not only this year but for a long time.

“I was not part of that plan. That’s why we’re standing here today. From my point of view, that’s sad. I never wanted to leave this place. At the same time, I respect their decision. That’s their decision to make and I wish them nothing but the best.”

The Sharks sent the Senators Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, a 2019 second-round draft pick, 2020 first-round pick, and two conditional draft picks in exchange for Karlsson. 

“This was not an easy situation for us to trade a player of Erik Karlsson’s caliber,” said Pierre Dorion, Senators general manager. “But for us to be where we need to be for the long-term, we had to make this decision at this point in time.”