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Karlsson wants Sharks to avoid rebuild, 'did not sign here' for that

Defenseman says San Jose should 'figure out a way how to be competitive'

by David Satriano / Staff Writer

Erik Karlsson said Saturday he did not sign with the San Jose Sharks to be part of a rebuild, which general manager Doug Wilson called a "reset" this week.

"Obviously, I did not sign here to go through a rebuild or go through what I did for 10 years in Ottawa," the 30-year-old defenseman said. "But it is what it is. I think that we need to find a way to build with a core group that we have here and figure out a way how to be competitive here in the upcoming years."

The Sharks (11-11-3) are seventh in the eight-team Honda West Division, seven points behind the fourth-place Colorado Avalanche. The top four teams will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in this 56-game season.

San Jose was one of seven NHL teams that did not make the Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season, the third time since Wilson became GM in 2003 it did not reach the postseason.

The Sharks advanced to the Western Conference Final in 2019, Karlsson's first season with them, and lost to the St. Louis Blues in six games after leading the series 2-1.

"I mean, I think after the year we had last year, I think it was pretty, pretty clear that we were not going to be the team that we were maybe the first year that I got here," Karlsson said. "You know that doesn't take rocket science to figure out."

Karlsson was traded to San Jose by the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 13, 2018, and signed an eight-year contract with the Sharks on June 17, 2019, two weeks before he could have become an unrestricted free agent for the first time. Ottawa made the playoffs five times in nine seasons with Karlsson, and won one series in four postseasons before it reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2017, when it lost Game 7 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in double overtime. The Senators were 28-43-11 in his final season.

"I'm excited to continue the chase for the ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup," Karlsson said after re-signing with San Jose. "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."

The Sharks, who defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 on Saturday, have won three straight games.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, San Jose held training camp in Arizona and played the first 12 and 14 of its first 16 games on the road. The Sharks have used 29 skaters and three goalies this season, including eight rookies.

Wilson said Friday the Sharks' approach to this season changed prior to the 2020 NHL Draft.

"We took a look at it, and when you say 'reset,' I will never and neither will our players or coaches say that we can't compete to make the playoffs," he said. "... Are we in the window to win a Cup this year? That's highly unlikely. Are we going to compete to try to make the playoffs? Yes we are. Are we going to commit to the reset and younger players getting opportunities? Yes we are."

Karlsson has scored nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 21 games this season and missed four because of injury. He's second on the Sharks in ice time per game (24:12) behind defenseman Brent Burns (26:54).

Last season, Karlsson, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl missed significant time with injury prior to the season being paused. With each of them healthy, Karlsson said he thinks the Sharks can make a run at the playoffs.

"Even this year I think is a different kind a year, if we find a way to get ourselves into the playoffs, anything can happen," he said. "Because I do think that we have a good group of guys here."

Karlsson was asked if he hopes the Sharks remain competitive and avoid trading players at the NHL Trade Deadline, which is April 12.

"Yeah, I think that's the goal every year," he said. "That's one of the tough things in this in this business, is losing good, good people and good teammates. That's not something that we want to go through, but again that's not something that any of us are going to be able to control. The only thing we can control is how we handle ourselves and how we conduct ourselves and how people view us as a team and as teammates, and as of late, I think that's been going in the right direction." Editor-in-Chief Bill Price contributed to this report

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