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Karlsson, Sharks put faith in each other with eight-year contract

Defenseman believes he'll win Cup, San Jose not concerned with health issues

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The San Jose Sharks believe Erik Karlsson's benefits outweigh any potential risks.

As a result, the Sharks signed the 29-year-old defenseman, who has dealt with injuries in recent seasons, to an eight-year contract on Monday. Financial terms were not released.

"The genesis of offense comes from the back end, and I've never heard anyone say it's a problem to have too many high-end defensemen or too many high-end centermen," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "They're crucial. Everyone's trying to find them, and we're very pleased to have two-time Norris [Trophy] winner Erik Karlsson back with us."

 

[RELATED: Karlsson signs eight-year contract with Sharks]

 

Karlsson, who won the Norris, awarded to the NHL's best defenseman, in 2012 and 2015, had 45 points (three goals, 42 assists) in 53 regular-season games and tied for second on the Sharks with 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games in his first season with San Jose. He was acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 13.

Karlsson could have become an unrestricted free agent for the first time July 1, but will instead continue to be a part of a defenseman group that includes 2017 Norris winner Brent Burns, who led the Sharks with 83 points (16 goals, 67 assists) in 82 games this season.

"I think we're going to have a great chance at winning the Cup, not only next year, but for a lot of years moving forward, and that's always going to be our mindset," Karlsson said. "Every season we start, we're going to go in with the ultimate goal, and that's to win the Cup. We had a great run this year, but we didn't make it all the way, and that's not what we set out to do. So I'm excited to be able to play for a lot of Stanley Cups in the future. I want to win, and I want to win every year. Hopefully, it'll be many of those coming our way."

Video: Karlsson signing shows Sharks still in "win-now" mode

Staying healthy would help.

Karlsson had surgery to repair torn tendons in his left foot when he played for the Senators on June 14, 2017, and last month he had surgery for a groin injury he sustained this season. The latter clearly hindered Karlsson in the Western Conference Final; he did not take a shift in the third period of Game 5 against the St. Louis Blues on May 19 and did not play when the Sharks were eliminated with a 5-1 loss in Game 6 two days later.

But Karlsson, who has begun his rehabilitation, is expected to be ready for the start of next season.

"So far, no problem, and I don't expect it to be an issue next year," Karlsson said. "It'll be a lot of work, but I'm willing to put it in. I'm going to have a great summer and be back in San Jose in no time."

Video: SJS@STL, Gm3: Karlsson wins it in OT with second goal

Wilson said he isn't concerned about Karlsson's health.

"That's the beauty in why it was so important to have the player here," he said. "We got to know him, not only as a person, but historically, the medical side of it. We're extremely comfortable. He went and had something that he was trying to play through fixed. It's going to be 100 percent come September, and he's putting the work in for that."

With Karlsson signed, the Sharks must turn its attention to other offseason questions, particularly regarding its depth at center.

They still have Logan Couture, who was third on the Sharks with 70 points (27 goals, 43 assists) in 81 games this season, and Tomas Hertl, who was second with 74 points (35 goals, 39 assists) in 77 games. But Joe Pavelski, who scored 38 goals and has been San Jose's captain since Oct. 5, 2015, could become an unrestricted free agent July 1, and Timo Meier, a 30-goal scorer, is a pending restricted free agent.

There is also the issue of whether Joe Thornton, who will turn 40 on July 2, will return for his 22nd NHL season. When Thornton does decide, Wilson said, "He'll call me and let me know. There'll always be a place for Joe Thornton in this organization, on or off the ice."

But after signing Karlsson, the Sharks are confident everything else will fall into place.

"To have three-high end defensemen (Burns, Karlsson, Marc-Edouard Vlasic), to be strong down the middle is really important. I think that's the foundation of any successful team," Wilson said. "Yes, you're going to have to integrate others in, you have to make decisions, but I tell you, knowing that we have this type of defense, knowing we have these types of centermen, it's a really good point to go forward and build our team off of."

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