Drew Doughty

Karlsson gets eight-year extension from Sharks

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The most coveted pending free agent defenseman won’t be making it to the dance.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Monday that “all signs” point to two-time Norris winner Erik Karlsson re-signing with the Sharks, the only team that can offer the talented 29-year-old Swede an eight-year deal.

Not long after, fellow TSN insider Pierre LeBrun reported that the deal was done.

And then official announcement came from the team.

“We are extremely pleased that Erik and his wife Melinda have committed to the San Jose Sharks and that they have done so prior to July 1,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson in a statement. “Players with Erik’s elite level of talent are rare and when they become available, it’s important to be aggressive in pursuing them. He is a difference maker who consistently makes the players around him better. We are pleased that he has been proactive in addressing his injury from last season and are looking forward to him being part of our organization for a long time to come.

The Sharks wouldn’t disclose the terms of the deal, but according to McKenzie it’s in the $11.5 million per year range, making the total worth of the contract around $92 million. — in the realm of the $88 million Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty got last year.

The deal is the largest in Sharks’ history, besting both Brent Burns‘ and Logan Couture‘s eight-year, $64 million extensions.

The deal keeps Karlsson from hitting the open market, of course, on July 1. It also makes sure he doesn’t hit the courting period, which begins on June 23. The Sharks were the only team that could offer Karlsson the max eight years.

“I’m super excited to continue my journey with the Sharks,” said Karlsson. “Since my first day here, I have only good things to say about the people, organization and the fans. The entire Bay Area has been extremely welcoming to me and my family. I appreciate that and we can’t wait to spend the next eight years in San Jose.

“As far as hockey goes, I’m excited to continue the chase for the ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup. 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.”

San Jose’s gain is a big loss to a few other teams that were in contention, including the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, among others reported — perhaps even a stunning return to Ottawa, as reported earlier this month.

[MORE: Sharks set to sweat salary cap after Karlsson extension]

Karlsson was traded to the Sharks last summer by the Senators, the team that drafted him 15th overall in 2008 and one he put on his back in 2017 as the Sens marched to the Eastern Conference Final before losing in overtime in Game 7 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

At the time, the move appeared to provide the Sharks with a defensive core to die for.

Karlsson joined Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and other solid pieces that were supposed to carry the Sharks deep into the playoffs.

“It’s extremely rare that players of this caliber become available,” Wilson said at the time of the trade. “The word ‘elite’ is often thrown around casually but Erik’s skillset and abilities fit that description like few other players in today’s game. With Erik, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, we feel we have three of the NHL’s top defencemen and stand as a better team today than we were yesterday.”

Karlsson started slow with the Sharks but regained his stride along the way, finishing with 45 points in 53 games. But it’s that game total that was a big issue throughout the year.

Karlsson dealt with multiple groin injuries right up until the Sharks were eliminated by the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final. Karlsson had to watch the decisive Game 6 in that series from the press box as the nagging problem.

It’s not the ideal season, but the Sharks appear fine with gambling on that groin after Karlsson had surgery on it earlier this month.

It will be interesting to see how the Sharks navigate the salary cap after the Karlsson deal. It appears someone will have to go from the UFA pack of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist. Thornton and Pavelski would command the most in terms of dollars (perhaps there’s room for one-year, low-salary, bonus-laden contracts for both.

The Sharks also have Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc, both restricted free agents in a need of a raise.

Meanwhile, attention for a top-pairing defenseman should now shift to Winnipeg Jets rearguard Jacob Trouba.

Trouba’s a restricted free agent but is likely to be dealt at some point this week or at the 2019 NHL Draft this coming weekend. A 50-point d-man last year, Trouba is a solid top-pairing defenseman that can play in all phases of the game.

The issue with Trouba at the moment is that any team willing to pay Winnipeg’s price tag needs to be darn certain they can extend him.

A small piece of consolation in Ottawa: The Senators will gain San Jose’s 2021 second-round selection because of the extension for Karlsson.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Breaking down Erik Karlsson’s playoffs with Sharks

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Heading into an eventual Game 3 win against the St. Louis Blues, Erik Karlsson was due.

OK, now he wasn’t due for something along the lines of scoring an overtime game-winner after fellow Sharks player Timo Meier got away with a hand pass, but Karlsson was due.

Through 16 games during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Karlsson had not been able to score a goal for the San Jose Sharks. Few would complain about his overall production, what with his 13 assists in those 16 games, but even acknowledging that defensemen take lower-percentage shots, you had to think that Karlsson was starting to get at least a little bit frustrated.

Karlsson ended up with two goals during the Sharks’ controversial 5-4 overtime win against St. Louis, and you wonder if the goals will really start to flow in now, starting with Friday’s Game 4 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream). If so, the Sharks stand a great chance to improve on their 2-1 lead in Round 3.

That goal-drought-breaking Game 3 serves as a nice excuse to take a look at Karlsson’s overall work during his first – and possibly only – playoff run with the Sharks.

Health questions

Karlsson literally limped into this postseason, so it was only natural to wonder how effective he could really be for the Sharks. After San Jose’s Game 1 win, Karlsson explained to Pierre McGuire that things definitely started rough for him, but that his health has improved as the postseason’s gone along.

Despite Karlsson’s assurances, there have been times when it’s been really difficult to shake the impression that the star defenseman isn’t at 100 percent. It’s something that Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos and others speculated about, and while some of that might merely be speculation, it’s tough not to read too much into any slow pivot, seemingly timid approach, and other bit of body language.

Not needing to be Superman

Remember Karlsson’s epic playoff run from 2016-17, when Karlsson nearly willed the Ottawa Senators to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, with help from friends like Mark Stone and Craig Anderson? Plenty of hockey fanatics already knew that Karlsson can be otherworldly at his peak, yet for those who stubbornly stood by as naysayers, it was eye-opening and mouth-shutting.

Interestingly, when you look at the simplest numbers of all, Karlsson’s not that far off from that run.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

In 2016-17, Karlsson generated two goals and 16 assists for 18 points in 19 games. During this run, Karlsson has two goals and 13 assists for 15 points in 17 games.

But it’s clear that the Sharks aren’t asking him to shoulder the same burden as he did with Ottawa. Most obviously, Karlsson’s seen his ice time shrink from 28:08 per night during that Senators run (when he seemed to be dealing with a lower-body injury as well), to a still-impressive but less Ryan Suter-like 25:34 TOI average with San Jose.

Brent Burns is the big reason why Karlsson’s numbers are robust, but not outrageous … and the Sharks are really leaning on Burns, whose ice time average is at a startling 28:53 per night, up significantly even from his work during previous playoff runs.

When the Sharks landed Erik Karlsson in that trade, the tantalizing thought was that, as two right-handed defensemen, Peter DeBoer could have one of Burns or Karlsson on the ice during almost every shift of a game. That’s pretty close to coming to fruition during this deep run.

Ups and downs

Back during his Ottawa days, Karlsson looked impressive from a possession standpoint, and outright outrageous when you considered his stats relative to his teammates.

He often fit that bill during the regular season, yet Karlsson’s fancy stats have been a little less fancy during the playoffs. According to certain metrics at Natural Stat Trick, Karlsson’s actually been on the wrong end of chances more often than on the positive side.

That’s really not such a bad thing overall, though.

For one thing, Karlsson and Burns are facing tough competition, and by logging such large minutes, they’re keeping lesser players from getting swamped in ways that could really put the Sharks in a bind. So maybe Karlsson hasn’t always been off-the-wall amazing like he’s been in the past – quite plausible if he’s nursing an injury – but, to put things mildly, he’s worth the rare mishap.

***

Overall, Karlsson’s been a gem for the Sharks. Perhaps they might grumble at the occasional mistake, emotional flare up, or bit of detached-looking body language when Karlsson’s on the ice for an opponent’s goal, but they’re likely ecstatic with the ultimate results.

Now, if you’re a team pondering a long-term deal with Drew Doughty-type money? Then maybe you’re more concerned by every wince and slow turn.

That’s not the Sharks’ problem, and if Karlsson really heats up, he could create even bigger headaches for the Blues.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Stunning numbers through Round 2 of Stanley Cup Playoffs

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Throughout the season we have been taking an occasional look at some stunning numbers from around the NHL.

Today, we take a look at some stunning numbers from throughout the first two rounds of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

This week’s numbers include Brent Burns‘ incredible workload, Carolina’s struggling special teams, and Jaden Schwartz‘s weird season. 

Brent Burns’ minutes keep increasing

We mentioned this after Round 1 and it’s worth mentioning again because the workload the San Jose Sharks are throwing at Burns is pretty remarkable.

Through the Sharks’ first 14 games the Norris Trophy finalist has already played 409 minutes, which is an incredible 53 minutes more than any other player in the league this postseason (via NHL PR). Since the NHL started time-on-ice numbers that is the 16th highest total for any player through their team’s first 14 playoff games. Only three players have exceeded that number since 2010 (Alex Pietrangelo in 2016, Drew Doughty in 2014, and Duncan Keith in 2015).

As impressive as Burns’ ice time numbers are this postseason, what is truly stunning is look at the minutes Chris Pronger used to play for the St. Louis Blues. During the 1999 playoffs he played an almost unbelievable 466 minutes in 13 games. The only reason it isn’t totally unbelievable? Two years later he played 475 minutes through the Blues’ first 14 playoff games.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Carolina’s special teams are still struggling 

The Hurricanes have looked great this postseason during 5-on-5 play, dominating possession, playing with speed, and looking like a franchise that is on the rise and ready to position itself as a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future.

Their run to the Eastern Conference Final so far has been impressive.

Even more impressive when you consider they are getting next to nothing from their special teams units.

Through Game 1 of the ECF series the Hurricanes’ power play is converting on just 12.2 percent of its chances with the man-advantage. Among the 86 teams that have appeared in at least 12 playoff games since the start of the 2005-06 season, that number is among the 12 worst.

Their penalty kill is even worse.

After giving up two quick power play goals to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, the Hurricanes have successfully killed off just 73.2 percent of their power plays in the playoffs. Among the same sampling of teams mentioned above, that number is the fifth worst.

Carolina’s power play wasn’t great during the regular season, but the penalty kill was among the league’s 10 best. It has not had anywhere near as much success in the playoffs. Part of that is due to getting seven games against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in Round 1, a matchup that will damage any team’s PK success rate, but they have also give up five power play goals in the five games since then.

It is a testament to how dominant they have been during 5-on-5 play that they have still been able to win eight out of their first 12 playoff games while getting so little production from their special teams units.

Jaden Schwartz’s roller coaster season 

Schwartz could not buy a goal during the regular season.

Among forwards that recorded at least 160 shots on goal, Schwartz’s 6 percent shooting percentage was the third worst in the NHL ahead of only Buffalo’s Evan Rodrigues (5.3 percent) and Los Angeles’ Tyler Toffoli (5.8 percent). For a player that had never shot lower than 10 percent in his career, and only once lower than 12 percent, it was a horribly unlucky season for the Blues’ forward.

His luck has changed dramatically in the playoffs.

Entering Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Saturday, Schwartz has already scored eight goals in 13 games for the Blues (after just 11 goals in 69 games during the regular season).

He has done so by scoring on 22.9 percent of shots, the second highest shooting percentage in the league among forwards with at least 20 shots in the playoffs.

The thing is, if you combine his regular season and playoff numbers together he is looking at exactly an 82-game sampling, or what would be a full regular season.

In those 82 games he has 19 goals on 218 shots. Still a notch below his normal career average of around 23 goals per 82 games, but far closer than his final regular season numbers. He probably wasn’t bad during the regular season, just a little unlucky. With more games added to his sampling for the year, the percentages started to regress in his favor.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Ben Bishop says Miro Heiskanen is ‘going to be a Hall of Famer’

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Dallas Stars defender Miro Heiskanen did not get enough votes to be a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year (he was in the top-three on my ballot, if you are interested) but he should not lose too much sleep over that right now.

Not only is his team still playing in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he played a huge role in a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday afternoon, scoring a goal and adding an assist, to tie the series at one game each.

He also received some high praise from Ben Bishop, his team’s starting goalie, after the game.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Really high praise.

Really, really, REALLY high praise.

Bishop was asked what has impressed him the most about the Stars’ 19-year-old rookie this season and, well, he set some pretty high goals for him.

“I mean the guy’s going to be a Hall of Famer, no doubt,” said Bishop, via Fox Sports Southwest. “It’s unbelievable. He’s one of the best defensemen I’ve ever played with and he’s 19. The sky is the limit for that guy. He is unbelievable. Everything he does on and off the ice. He’s a true pro. He’s always getting better and it’s scary to think he is only 19.”

Keep in mind that during Bishop’s NHL career he has made stops in Ottawa, Tampa Bay, and Los Angeles, meaning that he has been teammates and played with the likes of Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, and Drew Doughty, three of the best defenders of this era. So when he says “one of the best defensemen I’ve ever played with” that is not something to just take lightly. He has played behind some great ones.

How Heiskanen’s career plays out from here obviously remains to be seen, but there is no denying that his rookie season has been about as impressive as a rookie season can be for an NHL defender. He has not only played in every game this season (all 82 regular seasons, all eight playoff games so far) but he averaged more than 23 minutes of ice-time per game, saw equal time on the penalty kill and power play, and played more than 20 minutes of even-strength ice-time per game. He has been a top-pairing defender all season and never really looked out of place. Even though this was his first taste of NHL action, and even though he is still a teenager, he still finished as a positive possession player and was outstanding when it came to scoring chance and high-danger scoring chance differentials.

When he was on the ice during 5-on-5 play the Stars controlled more than 53 percent of the total scoring chances and more than 54 percent of the high-danger scoring chancers (via Natural Stat Trick).

He also finished with 12 goals and 33 total points and was top-20 among all defenders in the NHL in 5-on-5 shots and total shot attempts.

In short, he did pretty much everything for the Stars this season.

With Heiskanen and John Klingberg the Stars’ blue line looks to be in good hands for the foreseeable future.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Kings give McLellan his third head coaching job

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The Los Angeles Kings officially announced former Sharks bench boss Todd McLellan as their new head coach on Tuesday.

This continues a tour of the Pacific Division for McLellan, as he was most recently fired by the Edmonton Oilers.

From 2008-09 through 2014-15, McLellan served as Sharks head coach; he then spent 2015-16 through a portion of 2018-19 behind the bench with the Oilers, before making way for Ken Hitchcock. While the Sharks made the playoffs in six of his seven seasons (the final being the failed year, which in part cost McLellan his job), things didn’t go so swimmingly with Edmonton. While their run to Round 2 in 2016-17 represents the best season the Oilers have enjoyed in years, Edmonton only made the postseason that one time under McLellan, so he bares the mark of “not being able to get it done while having Connor McDavid on his team.”

Of course, McLellan didn’t pick the groceries, he just tried to do the best he could with those ingredients.

Unfortunately, you could also argue that his “cart” is full of expired (or nearly expired) and/or overpriced items, as the Kings sure looked like a slow, broken-down mess at times in 2018-19. McLellan inherited a tremendous Sharks team upon leaving as a Red Wings assistant, and he also came into Edmonton during McDavid’s rookie season, so this is the least promising situation McLellan’s started with. At least on paper.

There were rumblings that the Buffalo Sabres were also after Todd McLellan, including this recent bit from Pierre LeBrun:

Maybe McLellan sees more potential in the Kings (particularly in getting a few more years out of an aging core featuring Anze Kopitar [31] and Drew Doughty [29])? Or maybe this as much a statement about the way the Sabres are running things than what Los Angeles might be doing well?

Whatever the explanation might be, the McLellan era is set to begin for the Kings. How do you feel about the decision to have McLellan sit in the throne?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.