SAN JOSE -- Erik Karlsson was about to be, without a doubt, the most talked-about player when NHL free agency opened up on July 1.
But the San Jose Sharks have done their part in stopping that frenzy from taking place as they inked the two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman to an eight-year contract. There was plenty of speculation that Karlsson would test the market since he and San Jose hadn't reached any kind of a deal before the season was over. But Karlsson explained that being given the opportunity to focus on playing hockey during the season and not worrying about signing a contract just yet played a part in his final decision.
"(General manager) Doug Wilson, and (majority owner) Hasso Plattner as well, never pushed me to make a decision," Karlsson told the press on a conference call Monday morning after the deal was finalized. "Throughout the year, they let me play hockey and get adjusted to everything. That meant the world to me."
Despite having the season to get settled in San Jose, the rumor mill still churned with whispers Karlsson wanted to sign for with a team on the East Coast. There was talk that Karlsson's wife, Melinda, was homesick and that it was more likely he would choose a team closer to her native Ottawa. But Karlsson said he never got close enough to the free agency process to consider any other team.
"My focus since I got traded was the San Jose Sharks and they were my number one priority after the season," he said. "Spending the full season here and really getting a look (at) how everything works from the organization and the entire Bay Area I think was a key to everything. San Jose knew from the beginning that was something I wanted to do for myself before making any ultimate decision. Ever since my wife and I arrived here it's been nothing but good."
Wilson went so far as to add that getting to know the Karlsson's over the season made the contract process better.
"I think the whole process was based on transparency and openness," Wilson said. "I think what I truly respect, and I can't say enough about both Erik and Mel, was that they shared with us upfront what the process was going to be and how they wanted it to go and we agreed with that. They needed time to get to know us and we wanted to get to know them. But the fact that they also made this decision and shared with us they would make this decision way ahead of July 1 means the world to us."
Karlsson, who played for a new team for the first time in his professional career last season, added that his Sharks' teammates played a role in his final decision.
"Everybody has shown it's a quality place to play for, everything from the coaches and especially my teammates," he said. "Getting to know them over the course of the whole year and seeing how dedicated they are to winning a Cup and wanting to be better at all times."
San Jose still has a long list of pending free agents to tend to as the July 1 market opening comes up. But, at the very least, the Sharks were able to get one of their most important pending agents inked to a deal he's happy with.
"I feel like this the place where I want to be," Karlsson said. "This was a big decision for me, and at the end of the day, I know this is the best decision for me and my family."