July 19, 2019

Erik Karlsson Stays With the Sharks, Taking a Top Free Agent Off the Market

Erik Karlsson Stays With the Sharks, Taking a Top Free Agent Off the Market


SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Sharks re-signed the pending free agent Erik Karlsson to a $92 million, eight-year deal on Monday, turning a one-year rental into a long-term commitment to one of the league’s most dynamic defensemen.

Karlsson was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 but decided to stay in San Jose, where he will try to win his first championship and the first for a franchise that has reached the conference final five times in the past 15 years without ever winning it all.

“I’m excited to continue the chase for the ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup,” Karlsson said in a statement. “Last year was an unbelievable run, but we didn’t achieve what we set out to do. But the dedication I witnessed from my teammates, coaches, staff and organization showed me that we all have a great future ahead of us, and that we are capable of fighting for that championship year in and year out.”

The Sharks acquired Karlsson, a two-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the N.H.L.’s best defenseman, in a trade with the Ottawa Senators just before the start of last season. Karlsson was hampered by groin injuries for much of his first season in San Jose but also showed flashes as he helped the Sharks reach the Western Conference finals, where they lost to the eventual champion St. Louis Blues in six games.

“Players with Erik’s elite level of talent are rare and when they become available, it’s important to be aggressive in pursuing them,” General Manager Doug Wilson said.

Karlsson, 29, wore down at the end of the series against the Blues. He missed most of the second half of the third period in a Game 4 loss to St. Louis, missed the entire third period when the Sharks lost the following game and then didn’t travel for the Game 6 loss that ended San Jose’s season. Karlsson had surgery on the groin on May 31 and is expected to recover fully before the start of next season.

The Sharks were confident enough in his health to give him the richest contract of any defenseman, topping the $88 million, eight-year extension Drew Doughty signed in Los Angeles last summer. The only current deals worth more annually are Connor McDavid’s $12.5 million cap hit on an eight-year deal in Edmonton and Auston Matthews’ $11.6 million cap hit on a five-year contract in Toronto.

Karlsson finished his first season with the Sharks with three goals and 42 assists in 53 games.

But during a stretch from December to January, Karlsson showed he still has the ability to be the best defenseman in the N.H.L. He had points in 15 straight games that he played and had 25 points total in that span.

Karlsson got hurt Jan. 16 in Arizona. He returned to take part in All-Star weekend in San Jose but had to wait two more weeks to play a real game. He got hurt again Feb. 26 in Boston and didn’t play again until the regular-season finale.

While Karlsson still wasn’t at full speed when he returned, he managed to make a major impact in the playoffs. He had 14 assists in 19 games and scored two goals, including the overtime winner in Game 3 against the Blues.

Karlsson will be part of an elite and expensive defense group in San Jose, with the 2017 Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns and the shutdown defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. All three are now under contract at least through the 2024-25 season and an annual cap hit of $26.5 million.

San Jose still has two high-profile pending unrestricted free agents to try to sign. Captain Joe Pavelski is set to hit the market after scoring 39 goals this season. The franchise icon Joe Thornton also is a free agent but hasn’t announced whether he plans to retire or try to come back to San Jose for another season at age 40.



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