Six days before he could start speaking with other teams and two weeks before he could sign, Sharks defender Erik Karlsson chose to stay in his squad.
The 29-year-old Monday signed an eight-year contract with San Jose, giving up unrestricted freedom of maneuver. The only active defenseman to have won two Norris trophies and the best blue double since joining the league ten years ago, Karlsson probably would not have missed out on contenders this summer.
He said Monday that re-signing was his priority for the off-season, and NBC Sports analyst in California, Bret Hedican, thinks it's a proof of what the Sharks have built: the Swedish defender has completely escaped the frenzy of free agents.
"I thought for sure that with all the options that he was going to have in July, he might be able to test the water," Hedican said in an interview Monday morning. "But this only applies to the general manager, Doug Wilson, and the majority owner, Hasso Plattner and, of course, the coaching staff – everything that happened during the year with Karlsson was impressed enough by everyone and by the situation, where he is to sign a long-term agreement. "
Hedican played 1,039 games in the NHL, winning the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 before retiring three years later. He was 38 years old in his last season in the league, and Karlsson will turn 37 when his contract expires in 2027. Hedican said he thought Karlsson had probably learned a lot this season about the need to take care of his body with age. and he can stand the rigors of a regular season of 82 games and playoffs in the playoffs.
Karlsson played 53 games in the regular season, but missed 27 games due to groin problems that required out-of-season surgery.
What will help Karlsson as he ages is his speed of reflection and decision-making. Hedican compared the defender's hockey QI to a modern computer processor.
"You remember when we had our computers for the first time, the processor was not very fast," Hedican said. "You had to wait to get things done, now you have these [processors] that you hit a dash of the key, and that all these things happen in a few seconds, is not it? This is the processor that owns Erik Karlsson.
"When you can shut up a guy like that, you just do not have the opportunity like that every day."
Karlsson will not be responsible for leading the blue line alone, particularly offensive. Norris Trophy finalist Brent Burns, who just had a career-high this season (83 points), is under contract for another six years. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, meanwhile, becomes a free agent one year after Burns.
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Burns, Karlsson and Vlasic, respectively, finished No. 1 and # 2 among the Sharks in ice time in the regular season and in the playoffs. Karlsson and Burns have sometimes played together in the same-strength offensive zone or when the Sharks were trying to draw late, in addition to sharing time on the power play.
Hedican said the two countries had growth problems last season, but the duo's shared understanding was to continue to grow so the Sharks could fight and move forward.
"You have to understand that during the 82 matches, you may not have 22 minutes one night, but maybe 18," Hedican said. "… I think that understanding this and that these two players work together throughout a year of 82 games, learn to play with each other – and one without the other – will be important. "