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Karlsson Can See Writing on Wall for Sharks…But Can’t Get Over Wall

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Erik Karlsson can see the writing on the wall for the San Jose Sharks.

The day after the Sharks sent their top goal scorer, Timo Meier, to the New Jersey Devils for a bushel of futures, the star defenseman spoke candidly about the direction of the 18-30-12 team, about to go four years and running out of the playoffs.

“You trade a guy like Timo, I don’t think that shows that this is going to be a quick turnaround. It’s unfortunate, but I understand it,” he said. “I’ve been around the game long enough to understand what needs to be done from an organizational perspective, and it just sucks that it happened to be where I’m at in this stage of my career.”

The problem for Karlsson? He can see the writing on the wall, but he can’t get over the wall.

Karlsson has made it clear all season that his primary goal, at this stage of his career, is to win a Stanley Cup.

“I want to win,” the 32-year-old said in December. “When you’re younger, you think you have all the time in the world, you don’t realize how fast time goes.”

Sens Still ‘Looking At’ Karlsson Trade, EK65 Wants to Win

However, despite Karlsson’s Norris Trophy-caliber comeback campaign – he has an NHL defensemen-leading 77 points in 60 games – his age, massive contract (four years left at $11.5 million AAV), and recent results (three of his last four years have ended with a season-ending injury) have made it challenging for San Jose to give him a fresh start.

Earlier this month, there were credible rumors that the Edmonton Oilers were interested in Karlsson, but only if the San Jose Sharks were willing to retain about 40 percent of his remaining contract. For the Sharks, that’s about $20 million of cap space lost until 2026-27, and close to that in actual cash to pay someone to not play for you.

That would be an unheard-of amount of salary retainment, the largest in NHL history since the beginning of the salary cap era in 2005-06.

Karlsson’s contract also features a full No-Movement Clause, so it’s ultimately up to him if he stays or goes.

“With five days to go until the [Mar. 3 Trade] Deadline, to make everything work, it’s something that’s difficult to pull off,” San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier said yesterday after the Meier trade.

Karlsson echoed Grier’s thoughts this afternoon: “It’s never been raised to me. I think it’d be weird if he comes now with [four] days left to ask me to waive my no-move. We’ve had plenty of time for that if that was the case.”

“But at the end of the day,” Grier added yesterday, “if someone wants him bad enough, as they say, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’.”

Karlsson, who’s been through the Trade Deadline wringer before in his last year with the Ottawa Senators in 2017-18, doesn’t appear to be concerned about that unlikelihood.

“[My family and I] enjoy it here,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of fun this year, and I’m gonna continue to have that. The other things that you can’t control, you can’t do much about.”

Things could change this summer though, if Karlsson can continue his resurgent campaign to the end.

“I think [a trade] would be easier to do, where you can kind of get your ducks in a row and figure out how to make the money work,” Grier conceded. “It’s probably easier in the off-season.”

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