The Stanley Cup has been lifted, and the NHL's offseason is officially underway for all 31 teams. Before free agency begins, the Sharks reportedly are looking to make a splash by re-signing defenseman Erik Karlsson.
San Jose and the two-time Norris Trophy winner are still discussing a contract extension, a league source told The Athletic's Kevin Kurz. Kurz wrote that the Sharks "are prepared to offer" Karlsson an eight-year extension in the range of Drew Doughty's $88 million deal with the Los Angeles Kings. With an $11 million salary-cap hit, Doughty currently is the NHL's highest-paid defenseman.
Kurz reported that Karlsson and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson met for dinner Wednesday night in Santa Clara. A Facebook user in a Sharks fan group posted a picture with Karlsson and Wilson from the restaurant, which later surfaced on the Sharks' fan-run subreddit.
Image courtesy: Reddit (R/SanJoseSharks)
The Sharks first acquired Karlsson, the Ottawa Senators' longtime captain, in a blockbuster trade that sent four players and up to two draft picks to Ottawa on the eve of training camp. Karlsson played 53 games in his first season in San Jose, missing two due to a December suspension and 27 from January onward because of two separate groin injuries. Despite that, Karlsson scored 45 points (three goals, 42 assists) and posted a 59.22 percent 5-on-5 corsi-for percentage -- the best puck-possession mark among defenseman who played at least 750 minutes this season.
Karlsson clearly was hobbled during the Stanley Cup playoffs, but tied for second on San Jose with 16 postseason points (two goals, 14 assists). He didn't play in the Sharks' season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference final to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues after aggravating his groin in Game 4 and playing just 10:32 in Game 5. The Sharks announced last week that Karlsson underwent successful groin surgery, and the defenseman was seen on crutches attending Game 3 of the NBA Finals that same day.
The 28-year-old defenseman has not played in 82 games in any of the last three regular seasons, and also underwent surgery on his left foot after the 2017 postseason. That said, he still would be the best defenseman to hit unrestricted free agency if he and the Sharks cannot reach an agreement on an extension. Karlsson can interview with other teams beginning on June 23, but San Jose is the only one that can offer him an eight-year extension. The latest Karlsson can sign such a deal is 11:59 p.m. ET on June 30, and he would only be able to sign a seven-year deal with a team -- including the Sharks -- beginning at noon ET the next day.
The Sharks currently have just over $58 million in salary commitments for next season, giving them right around $25 million in cap space based on the cap's projected rise to $83 million for 2019-20. Karlsson is one of seven players who can become an unrestricted free agent, in a group that also includes wingers Joonas Donskoi, Gustav Nyquist and Joe Pavelski, as well as veteran center Joe Thornton. Young wingers Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier likely are in line for raises as restricted free agents, giving Wilson plenty to think about as the offseason rolls along.