Editor's Note: For having only existed as an NHL franchise for 27 seasons, the Sharks sure have been involved in a seemingly inordinate number of headline-stealing trades. Some of the greatest players in San Jose franchise history have been acquired via trade, and each has inevitably played a major role in the successful evolution from expansion team to perennial cup contender. This week, NBC Sports California will look back at the five most important trades in Sharks franchise history, continuing with the trade for Erik Karlsson.
A year ago next month, the Sharks ended one of the most prolonged trade sagas in recent memory.
San Jose acquired two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson in a blockbuster trade on Sept. 13, 2018, sending two players, two prospects and ultimately two draft picks to the Ottawa Senators. The Swedish blue liner was rumored to be traded for months, and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson put those rumors to bed on the eve of his team opening training camp.
What followed in the ensuing nine months was an up-and-down season that ended two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final, with Karlsson's potential in teal teased, yet not entirely realized, as well as his signing of an eight-year contract with the Sharks before the onset of free agency.
Karlsson joined the Sharks with a reputation as one of the NHL's best, most-accomplished defensemen. During his first nine seasons in the league, he scored nearly 96 more points (518) than the next-closest defenseman (Keith Yandle, 422) and posted a higher 5-on-5 corsi-for percentage relative to his team (plus-4.26 percent) than all but three who played at least 5,000 minutes at full strength.
Adding a four-time First Team All-Star to a blue line that already had Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic appeared to immediately solidify the Sharks as a Stanley Cup contender, but Karlsson's first season in San Jose was not always smooth.
He didn't score his first goal until the season's quarter pole, and managed just 12 points in his first 21 games. Karlsson then played in just 14 regular-season games once the calendar turned to 2019, missing significant time down the stretch with a recurring groin injury that ultimately required surgery in the offseason.
Still, what Karlsson did before the injury -- and even after -- showed firsthand why his acquisition was among the biggest in Sharks history. As Karlsson became comfortable, San Jose took off. The goals and assists started to follow his underlying production, and the Sharks rattled off a 16-4-2 run following Karlsson's return to Ottawa and up until Jan. 16. That was Karlsson's last full game before missing all but six of the Sharks' final 33 contests.
Even though Karlsson clearly was hobbled in the postseason, he still led the team with 14 assists and tied for second on San Jose with 16 points in 19 playoff games.
The Sharks saw enough to not only trade for, but sign Karlsson for eight more years. He has shown enough in his career beforehand to be worth the hefty price. Adding a Stanley Cup and another Norris to his trophy case could ensure Karlsson's trade is remembered as the most important in Sharks history.
Recurring injuries and failing to rediscover his All-Star form could do the same, but for reasons San Jose desperately hopes to avoid.
One way or another, the Sharks' trade for Karlsson will be remembered as franchise-defining. Considering what he has done before and since he came to San Jose, the possible rewards are well worth the potential risks.