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Senators, Karlsson agree on 7-year contract extension

by Dan Rosen

Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson pulled off a feat on Tuesday that most men can only dream of.

The 22-year-old Norris Trophy finalist signed a seven-year contract worth a reported $45.5 million while in Las Vegas -- a city that is basically made of money.

Karlsson, though, isn't planning a spending or gambling spree. He's getting married in 2 1/2 weeks to his longtime girlfriend Therese.

Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson
Defense - OTT
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 59 | PTS: 78
SOG: 182 | +/-: 16
"Yeah, that's my wedding gift to her," Karlsson said of the contract.

His new lucrative deal is also a well-earned reward after his breakout season in 2011-12.

Karlsson led all NHL defensemen with 78 points in 81 games -- Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien and Florida's Brian Campbell finished tied for second with 53. He joins Nashville's Shea Weber and Boston's Zdeno Chara as finalists for the Norris Trophy, which will be announced Wednesday at the NHL Awards show.

"It's going to be higher expectations from everyone, especially from you guys [the media]," Karlsson said Tuesday. "That's the way it is. It's something that I know about. It's not something that has snuck up on me. I know how it is and I know how it works. I'm going to try to play my best every night. It's all I can do.

"I'm not happy with where I am today," he continued. "I'm still trying to be a better hockey player and a better person as well. I know Ottawa has all the capacity to help me be that guy and it's going to be an exciting thing."

Senators coach Paul MacLean said he is not at all concerned that the contract and the big money, which equals out to a $6.5 million per season, will stop Karlsson from becoming an even better player.

"Our coaching staff is going to take a lot of time talking to him, and Daniel Alfredsson is a good friend of his, whether he plays or not," MacLean said. "He has a good support group around him and his teammates are going to make sure that he stays humble."

MacLean credited Karlsson with being a fun player to work with, a keen observer of the game, and a fast learner. But MacLean was quick to warn that Karlsson can still be better, and that one 78-point season does not define a player.

"I don't think until he does it again that you can say that that's normal," MacLean said. "Anybody can do something one time; the telltale sign of a real good player is if he does it over time, and even the great players don't always get the maximum every year. Our expectation is that he's a 50-70 point player from the back end. If he ends up with 40 that doesn't mean it's going to be a disappointment. We just want him to be a consistent player."

Alfredsson, who said Tuesday he still needs a few more weeks before determining if he will return or retire, has been one of Karlsson's biggest supporters since the Senators drafted him in 2008. They are both from Gothenburg, Sweden, and Karlsson lived with Alfredsson and his family for his first couple of seasons in the NHL.

Perhaps the only people happier for Karlsson than Alfredsson are Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and general manager Bryan Murray.

"I think it's great for Erik, obviously, for our team and for the city too," Alfredsson said. "He's a person that everybody likes to be around. His skill on the ice is unbelievable and I think we're just starting to see his potential. At 22 to be able to accomplish already what he has is unbelievable and it's been extremely fun being a part of the start of his career. I'm happy for him to get this deal."

Karlsson was thrilled to be able to get it done here in Vegas, where the Senators' top brass has gathered with the hockey world in celebration of another season. He was looking forward to meeting Murray and Melnyk for dinner Tuesday night.

"We can talk about it and be happy," Karlsson said. "It's going to be a special feeling just talking to them eye-to-eye instead of over the phone."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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