Wilson — known for the acquisitions of forward Joe Thornton, defenseman Brent Burns, goaltender Martin Jones and forward Evander Kane in the past — made a run at center John Tavares in free agency.
When Tavares signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, Wilson stayed after another player he had targeted leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26.
“We kind of kept our powder dry, hoping that this type of opportunity would come to fruition,” Wilson said. “And it did.”
Wilson acquired Karlsson and forward prospect Francis Perron from the Ottawa Senators on Thursday for forwards Chris Tierney and Rudolfs Balcers, defenseman Dylan DeMelo, forward prospect Joshua Norris, a conditional first-round pick in the 2019 or 2020 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2019.
Karlsson, 28, is in the last year of his contract. If San Jose signs him to an extension, Ottawa receives a conditional second-rounder in 2021 that would become a first-round pick if the Sharks reach the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. If Karlsson is on an Eastern Conference roster this season, Ottawa would receive a first-round pick before 2022.
In Karlsson and Burns, the Sharks have the top two offensive defensemen in hockey. Karlsson won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 2012 and 2015. Burns won it in 2017. Since 2011-12, when Karlsson won the Norris the first time and Burns joined the Sharks, Karlsson leads NHL defensemen with 447 points. Burns is second with 383. No one else has more than 337.
“[Karlsson and Burns] together on the power play will be pretty dynamic,” Wilson said.
Yep. The Sharks shouldn’t be 16th in the NHL at 20.6 percent, like they were last season.
“All I have to do is give [Burns] the puck, and, you know, usually it takes care of the rest,” Karlsson said.
With Karlsson, Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, perhaps the best defensive defenseman in the NHL, the Sharks have a fearsome top three. Add in Justin Braun, and the Sharks have one of the best two top fours in the NHL, if not the best. The only one that compares is the Nashville Predators’ of Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm.
“I know I’m going to be walking into a group that are going to be extremely hungry to be successful every night, and I’m looking forward to that,” Karlsson said. “It matches up with my personality and what I want to do as well. So in that aspect, I do think that they do have an extremely good team, and I’m going to be extremely excited to be a part of that.”
This is clearly a difficult time for Karlsson. Even though the Senators went from double overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 2017 to 30th place last season, even though there had been trade rumors and the public declaration of a rebuild, he was shocked and saddened.
He had spent his entire nine-year career with the Senators. He was their captain. Fighting back tears Thursday, he called Ottawa his “forever home.” He did not want to comment on the possibility of an extension with the Sharks, let alone commit to one.
“As for right now, that’s a private discussion and not something that I’m going to elaborate on,” Karlsson said.
There likely will be a transition period for Karlsson personally and professionally once he works out visa issues and joins the Sharks. But Wilson made it clear the Sharks wanted him for the short and long terms, and you’ve got to think once he arrives in San Jose and plays with these guys — from Burns to Vlasic to Braun to Jones, not to mention Thornton and Kane and Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl up front — there’s a good chance he’ll love it and decide to stay.
There’s a good chance to win too, and that’s all for which you can ask in this crazy NHL.
The Vegas Golden Knights, who defeated the Sharks in the Western Conference Second Round and the Winnipeg Jets in the conference final last season, signed center Paul Stastny as a free agent July 1 and traded for forward Max Pacioretty on Sunday. The Predators and the Jets remain contenders in the West.
In the East, the Maple Leafs added Tavares to their up-and-coming core. The Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals remain contenders.
Several other teams are in the mix too.
“The entire League is competitive,” Wilson said. “You look at the schedule, there’s very rarely an easy game. When teams go out and get better, it forces other people to get better.”
The Sharks were but the latest. Who’s next?