It seems likely that a parting of the ways between the San Jose Sharks and Erik Karlsson is inevitable.
Acclaimed to be the fastest skater in the NHL once upon a time, defenseman Erik Karlsson shocked the world of hockey when he declared to leave the Ottawa Senators after nine years of service for the organization after the 2017-18 season, but things haven’t gone according to plan.
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The Swedish defenseman had wanted not only another chance at the Stanley Cup with a strong contender, but also to earn the amount of money he deserves in a market that could expand his earnings and audience. The San Jose Sharks, being one of the top up-and-coming teams in the NHL as well as being based in California, had all the makings to do so.
It seemed to be a great fit for both parties. The Sharks wanted to bring in an elite player to help them get over the hump after losing in the First Round in the previous two seasons, while Karlsson would get away from a toxic locker room in Ottawa and enjoy the sun in Cali.
An ugly divorce between San Jose Sharks and Erik Karlsson could be coming soon
Even coming off an injury-prone season in his final run with the Sens, Karlsson managed to pot a whopping 9 goals and 53 assists for 62 points in 71 games to finish in the top 5 leaders for points among defensemen. Though his production was never-ending, his team struggled to keep the puck out of their own net, and the two-time Norris Trophy winner finished with a -25 plus/minus on the year.
It was when, then teammate Mike Hoffman’s girlfriend, verbally and publicly attacked Karlsson’s wife that there was enough reason to move on to better days with a new jersey. The Sharks offered him a contract he simply couldn’t refuse, an eight-year, $92 million contract ($11.5 million AAV) that made him the highest-paid defenseman in NHL history. Finally, Karlsson had earned the credit he deserved, but it would ultimately come at a cost.
The issue with the makeup of the Sharks roster at the time of the addition of the Swedish superstar was that it was far from being a young roster. Out of the 28 players that made an appearance for the team, 15 of them were 28-years or older. For an NHL team looking to build Stanley Cup hopes, it’s rather hard to do so when the core of your team is on the back nine of their careers.
Even as time went by, Karlsson could never find a time where he wasn’t coping with ailments as he played in just 53 out of 82 possible games in the 2018-19 season, his first year in San Jose. What makes matters worse, is that the California-based team would only struggle more and more.
Now, with the 2021-22 season rapidly approaching, it’s time to take another look at what Karlsson is signed up for. The Sharks are not only doubtful to make any noise in the standings, but the franchise is taking a rebuilding approach to construct an entirely new team, one that likely will be without No. 65 in the picture.
At 31-years old, he’s not able to be a part of a rebuild. He’ll be lucky if he has another five years left in the NHL, and that’s being optimistic based on his injury history. He’s no longer the speed demon we once craved, and his presence as a top blueliner in the show has nearly diminished.
Just look at his production over the last couple of years – he had 40 points (6 G, 34 A) in 56 games in 2019-20, but those totals plummeted to 22 points (8 G, 14 A) in 52 games in 2020-21. In other words, Karlsson’s far removed from being at the peak of his powers and he has been regressing for a while, and that includes his play on the power play.
Karlsson wants a ring. Plain and simple. And based on San Jose’s outlook, they won’t provide it for him.
The Sharks have no use for him, as his demanding cap hit is hindering the growth of the team and his play no longer warrants the pay. In order to save face, while he still has some juice in the tank, the front office will likely look to move the veteran for Draft capital and prospects, although they will have to eat some of that salary in order to facilitate a move.
Whether there are any buyers out there for Karlsson remains to be seen but, given where he is at in his career and the direction the San Jose Sharks seem to be heading in, it does seem likely that maybe the end is near for the two parties and a divorce could be on the cards as soon as this season.