Erik Karlsson shown plenty of love in emotional return to Ottawa

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Erik Karlsson can now finally turn the page on his move to the San Jose Sharks.

On Saturday afternoon, Karlsson returned to Canadian Tire Centre for the first time since the September trade that sent him to San Jose. After getting the solo lap treatment during warmups, the former Ottawa Senators captain was honored with a video tribute and a long ovation following the game’s first television timeout.

“I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t know this was coming up and that I haven’t been thinking about it,” Karlsson said on Friday after the team’s practice in Ottawa. “But at the same time, I’ve been trying to stay focused on the tasks that we’ve had at hand and the games that we’ve played before this game.”

(Fun note: Karlsson’s return comes on the five-year anniversary of Daniel Alfredsson’s return to Ottawa.)

Admitting he was feeling a bit anxious upon returning to the city where he grew up as an NHL player, Karlsson, who spent nine years and 627 games with the team, said he was unsure how he would be received by Senators fans. It was pretty clear that considering how things are going in that city between the fans and the team’s ownership, there was no doubt he was going to be showered with love.

“I’ve had nothing but great memories there and I’m again looking forward to creating more,” Karlsson said Friday. “[Saturday] afternoon is going to be another one of those great memories.”

MORE: As Karlsson returns to Ottawa, don’t believe the anti-hype

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL On NBCSN: Points starting to come for Sharks’ Erik Karlsson

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers at 10 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Offensively, things are going pretty good for the San Jose Sharks. Their 68 goals through 21 games has them near the top of the NHL.

Of those 68 goals, only six have come from their blue line with Erik Karlsson joining the “goals scored” club on Saturday night against St. Louis. The blast came on his 62nd shot of the season, which, along with his 95 percent PDO, shows that the opportunities have been there — it’s just that the puck hasn’t been going in for him.

“I’ve been feeling good all year, it just hasn’t worked out on the scoresheet,” Karlsson said after Saturday’s victory. “But sometimes that’s the way it is. I don’t think I’m doing anything different now. As a team, we’re progressing, and we’re playing better hockey at times. That includes me, and everyone in here.”

We know the kind of offense the Sharks can provide, especially from a back end that also features Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The September acquisition of Karlsson, who scored nine goals and recorded 62 points last season with Ottawa, only bolstered that as well as a power play that can easily break the 20 percent mark (19.7 percent success rate this season).

[How much longer can Oilers go on like this?]

But it hasn’t been an easy plug-and-play for Karlsson and the Sharks through a quarter of the season. Finding himself partnered mainly with Vlasic and Brenden Dillon, Karlsson’s impact on the offense is still a work-in-progress. 

“[H]e’s been playing some real good hockey, and I think he’s been really solid for us lately,” said Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. “For me, the offense is a bonus. We know it’s going to be there and the numbers are going to be there at the end of the year because they have to be based on what he’s doing, but he’s been real solid all over the ice for us lately.”

DeBoer’s right. Karlsson, per Natural Stat Trick, is currently tied for the NHL lead among defensemen in individual shot attempts (120), top five in possession (59.92 Corsi percentage), top-10 in high-danger chances for (85), and top-10 in Corsi for relative percentage (5.61), which means the shot differential of shots directed at the opposing team’s net per 60 minutes when he’s on the ice. He’s currently on a three-game point streak with a goal and four assists.

So it’s not as if we’re seeing a different Karlsson now that he’s wearing teal instead of red and black. Through 21 games the bounces haven’t been going his way. But considering his body of evidence, sooner or later his impact will be felt in San Jose.

Randy Hahn (play-by-play) and Bret Hedican (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Oilers-Sharks from SAP Center in San Jose.

MORE: Ken Hitchcock returns to coaching, replaces McLellan in Edmonton

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Erik Karlsson on Ottawa: ‘I never wanted to leave this place’

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There was no prepared statement. Erik Karlsson wanted to “speak from the heart.”

Karlsson addressed the Ottawa media following the announcement of Thursday’s trade that sent him to the San Jose Sharks. Everyone knew this day was coming. With the direction the Senators are currently heading, the best move for the franchise was to part with the face of the organization.

Fighting back tears, Karlsson explained that the Senators’ vision of their team going forward did not include him.

“I think they made it very clear in what direction they were going [in],” Karlsson said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t part of that, and I respect that. It’s their decision and I wish them nothing but the best. I think that they’re going to do wonderful things. They have a good group of guys down there that are extremely motivated to keep pushing forward and doing whatever they have to do to be successful, not only this year but for a long time.

“I was not part of that plan. That’s why we’re standing here today. From my point of view, that’s sad. I never wanted to leave this place. At the same time, I respect their decision. That’s their decision to make and I wish them nothing but the best.”

[Erik Karlsson dealt to Sharks as Senators continue roster teardown]

In exchange for Karlsson, the Senators acquired a package of Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, plus two conditional picks.

Ottawa’s “plan” has apparently been in place since February, going by what general manager Pierre Dorion said. It was put together by the GM and owner Eugene Melnyk and it was determined that a successful rebuild would not be possible without trading Karlsson, which would bring in a hefty return. The return was big, but we’re still years away from determing just how fruitful it will be for the franchise.

“This was not an easy situation for us to trade a player of Erik Karlsson’s caliber,” said Dorion. “But for us to be where we need to be for the long-term, we had to make this decision at this point in time.”

Last September, the Senators entered training camp coming off their most successful season in a decade. They even added Matt Duchene in the opening month, loading up for what they thought would be another playoff run. But then it all went south and the talk of extending Karlsson quickly transitioned into a trade sweepstakes. Over time it was a given that he would be moved, but the two-time Norris Trophy winner still felt surprised when it finally became a reality.

“I haven’t really wrapped my mind around that. We’re in this situation we’re in right now and you have to deal with it,” said Karlsson. “Once it settles down here a little bit you can start looking ahead and moving forward a bit. As of right now, it’s extremely emotional and a sad moment.

“Even though you’ve heard a lot of things about this could be possible, you can’t really prepare for any of this. So, it’s sad.”

MORE: Karlsson trade gives Sharks NHL’s most explosive defense

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Erik Karlsson dealt to Sharks as Senators continue roster teardown

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The long-awaited Erik Karlsson traded has finally been completed and the talented defenseman and prospect Francis Perron are heading to the San Jose Sharks. In return, the Ottawa Senators will receive Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, plus two conditional picks.

Here are the details on those picks:

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson went hard after John Tavares in free agency, but struck out and moved on to extending key pieces in Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane. He wanted a “difference-maker” and certainly achieved that goal in acquiring the 28-year-old Karlsson.

San Jose’s blue line will now feature Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, a very solid trio, while their top power play unit will be something to watch with the newly-added Swede.

“It’s extremely rare that players of this caliber become available,” said Wilson. “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.”

Karlsson, who was the No. 15 overall selection in the 2008 NHL draft, spent nine years with the Senators, suiting up for 627 games, scoring 126 goals and recording 518 points. He quickly developed into an all-around blue liner, capable of hitting double digits in goals and being strong defensively. His play would help earn him two Norris Trophies and second-place finishes in 2016 and 2017.

Since 2013, Karlsson is one of only three defensemen — Burns and P.K. Subban being the others — to record at least 300 points. Karlsson is third in goals (89) over that stretch with Burns leading the way (116) comfortably.

The key now for Wilson and the Sharks is to sign Karlsson to an extension. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and will command a max deal, whether he reaches UFA status or not. The Sharks are perennial contenders out west and this move certainly keeps them in the conversation for 2018-19 in a crowded field of Western Conference field favorites.

[Karlsson trade gives Sharks NHL’s most explosive defense]

For the Senators, the trade is one of the final parts of the complete teardown of a roster that was a goal away from reaching the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. After moving Karlsson and dealing Mike Hoffman, the big pieces that remain are Bobby Ryan, who still has four years left carrying a $7.25M cap hit; Mark Stone, who signed a one-year, $7.35M deal over the summer; and Matt Duchene, who was acquired last October and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Goaltender Craig Anderson probably could be had if the right offer came along.

It’s all about stockpiling assets to go with a prospect cupboard that features Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, Logan Brown, Colin White and Alex Formenton. (And let’s not forget Ottawa’s 2019 first-rounder belongs to the Colorado Avalanche.)

How deep are the Senators entrenched in this rebuild? The headline for the trade press release reads: “Ottawa Senators complete most important trade in rebuild” and the messaging inside keeps on the theme that the future is bright — they just need to keep dealing away their best players.

“This is the right moment for us to rebuild our team, and shape our future with a faster, younger and more competitive team on the ice,” says Senators GM Pierre Dorion in a statement. “We are going to build a culture of consistency which will allow this team to sustain better performance over the long term.”

If you’re wondering, the Sharks visit Ottawa on Saturday, Dec. 1.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Erik Karlsson picks up puck after potential last home game as a Senator (video)

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If Monday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets was the last time Erik Karlsson will suit up for the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre, he’ll have something to remember the occasion.

Jets forward Adam Lowry shot the puck into the empty net at the end of the game in a 6-5 loss for the Senators. After the final buzzer, Karlsson skated over to the net, fished the puck out of it, and put it into his hockey pants, perhaps foreshadowing an end of an era in Canada’s capital for the two-time Norris Trophy winner.

Karlsson’s future has been the focus of intense speculation for much of the season, and the thought is he will depart Ottawa at some point this offseason after a deal at the trade deadline didn’t come to fruition.

The 27-year-old has one year remaining on his contract.

Karlsson had three assists in the game, eclipsing the 60-point mark for the fifth straight season.


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