06/18 13:18 CDT Sharks re-signing Karlsson sets table for busy NHL offseason
Sharks re-signing Karlsson sets table for busy NHL offseason
By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Hockey Writer
Erik Karlsson had no wanderlust to test the free agent market before re-signing
in San Jose.
"I never thought outside that box," Karlsson said. "I'm happy that it didn't
get to that."
A handful of other teams aren't so happy because the two-time Norris
Trophy-winning defenseman would have been the best unrestricted free agent
available. Karlsson signing a $92 million, eight-year contract with the Sharks
is the first big off-ice development since St. Louis won the Stanley Cup
because of all the ramifications it could have on the NHL offseason.
With Karlsson off the board, any team looking for a No. 1 defenseman has to
either hope veteran Alexander Edler doesn't re-sign with the Canucks and win
that bidding war or go the trade route. Salary-cap concerns for San Jose,
Washington and a handful of other Cup contenders could open the door to some
significant player movement even before free agency starts July 1.
"I think there's been more conversation, more communication between the GMs in
the last month than maybe ever since I've been a GM," San Jose's Doug Wilson
said Monday. "There's so much competition, especially for the high-end player.
... There's a lot of things going on."
Less than 24 hours after Karlsson signed, the dominos began to fall.
Karlsson was linked to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, and it
took less than 24 hours for the first direct responses to him re-signing with
the Sharks. New York on Monday night acquired defenseman Jacob Trouba from the
Jets, and Tampa Bay on Tuesday re-signed veteran Braydon Coburn to a $3.4
million, two-year deal --- cap space it likely would have needed for Karlsson
if he was available.
San Jose needed to clear room and did some of that by trading defenseman Justin
Braun and his $3.8 million cap hit to Philadelphia for a 2019 second- and 2020
third-round draft pick.
The trade talk is just heating up ahead of the draft Friday and Saturday in
Vancouver. Pittsburgh's Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang and
Nashville's P.K. Subban are among the high-profile players who could be on the
"There's lots of things on the go," Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "It's
probably an unprecedented time of conversation."
Many of the moves that come from those conversations will set the table for
free agency, where Columbus winger Artemi Panarin, center Matt Duchene and
goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky are the top three players available.
Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner, Dallas winger Mats Zuccarello, Islanders
winger Anders Lee, Sharks forward Joe Pavelski, Bruins winger Marcus Johansson
and Hurricanes winger Micheal Ferland are among the other possibilities. The
salary cap is expected to increase by $3.5 million to roughly $83 million, and
money will be spent.
"It's a pretty good class this year," Colorado GM Joe Sakic said. "(We) already
have targeted players in mind if they become available that we'll want to talk
to about joining our club. We see positions of need, of what we're looking to
do. There's a few guys we're going to want to talk to if they become available.
We'll be more aggressive this year with that, but if it doesn't work out with
the players we want to talk to, we're not just going to go spend on anybody."
Sakic's Avalanche have the most projected cap space in the league with $36
million, according to PuckPedia . The Flyers and rival New Jersey Devils, New
York Rangers and Islanders will also have cap space to burn and a need for an
elite defenseman or two.
"They're not easy to find," Philadelphia GM Chuck Fletcher said. "Certainly, if
we can find a guy that can play in our top four that we'd have the ability to
acquire, we'll certainly look at it."
BUT FIRST, THE DRAFT: New Jersey is widely expected to select American center
Jack Hughes first overall, leaving Finnish winger Kaappo Kakko for the Rangers.
"Obviously one team's going to indicate to us exactly how it might go for the
rest of the draft," Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said. "I think we're in a good spot.
We know that we're going to get a really good player no matter what happens to
Chicago picks third and will get a nice boost to aid its turnaround after
missing the playoffs the past two seasons.
BITE OUT OF SHARKS: Committing $11.5 million a year to Karlsson cuts
significantly into San Jose's offseason maneuvering with Pavelski, Joe
Thornton, Gustav Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi set to be unrestricted free agents
and emerging star Timo Meier needing a new contract as a restricted free agent.
"Under a cap system, choices and decisions need to be made," Wilson said, not
ruling out bringing back Pavelski and others. "I don't think anybody should
rush to conclusions on anything. There's many ways to accomplish different
RUSSIAN PACKAGE DEAL: Panarin and Bobrovsky played together with the Blue
Jackets for two seasons and are hitting free agency at the same time. When
Panarin switched agents to be represented by Bobrovsky's agent, Paul Theofanus,
it raised eyebrows that the Russian countrymen might want to go to the same
With some creative roster work, the Florida Panthers could be the ideal landing
spot for Panarin and Bobrovsky and go from close to the playoffs to real
CAPITALS CONCERNS: Even though Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals are no longer
reigning Cup champions, Hagelin insisted he wouldn't have signed an $11
million, four-year contract with them if he didn't think they could win it
again over that time. To do so, GM Brian MacLellan will have to navigate a
difficult cap situation around pending free agent winger Brett Connolly and
restricted free agent Andre Burakovsky and knowing deals with center Nicklas
Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby expire next summer.
"I hope (Connolly and Burakovsky are) still here," Hagelein said. "But at the
end of the day, Conno, he's a UFA so it's up to him what he wants. You
understand if a guy tests the market to see what's out there. But I hope both
of those guys come back."
AP Sports Writers Pat Graham and Josh Dubow contributed to this report.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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