Erik Karlsson is hoping to have a season like Drew Doughty next year, with one major difference.
The Senators defenceman does not want to miss part of the season because of a contract dispute.
Karlsson, who is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, believes that negotiations between his camp and general manager Bryan Murray have been positive and should result in a deal being signed before the puck drops on the 2012-13 campaign.
“Obviously, I want to get everything done before the season starts. With these kinds of things it can come to a certain point where both sides don’t agree on things — but hopefully that won’t be my situation,” Karlsson said on a conference call from Sweden on Friday. “We both have a pretty good dialogue. I have full confidence in my agents and in Ottawa that things are going to get done the proper way and both sides will be happy with it.”
“Bryan is a reasonable person and I respect him a lot. Hopefully, it’s not going to be an issue where we stand eye to eye and we don’t agree.”
The 22-year-old defenseman re-iterated what Murray said on Thursday — that both sides believe this deal will get done without too many complications.
“We’re still in the early stages of things and everything is going well — there is no rush,” added Karlsson. “I want to stay and they want to keep me. I don’t think you’re going to have any problems when signing a new contract.”
Karlsson and his agent Craig Oster are planning to meet with Murray next week in Las Vegas around the NHL Awards, where the Sens defenceman is a nominee for the Norris Trophy. The belief is that if Karlsson does win the award, it will give him more bargaining power at the table with Murray. For his part, Karlsson has not given much thought about actually winning the award over Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara and Nashville Predators’ Shea Weber.
“Just to be nominated is a great honour and it’s definitely something that’s special for me. Just to be there and be around everybody is enough,” said Karlsson. “Definitely, you want to win but it’s not in my hands. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a special feeling going to the awards. I’ll try and take in as much as possible and try and enjoy it.”
Whether or not he wins the award, the expectations will be increased for Karlsson next season, after his 19-goal, 78-point season. Those lofty numbers — coupled with a new lucrative contract — will mean that Ottawa fans will be anticipating another highly productive season from the defenseman.
“I am well aware of the expectations that will be on me next year. It’s something that will be always there,” explains Karlsson. “Obviously, the better you do on the ice, the more people are going to expect from you. The toughest thing is maintaining your highest level every night.”
Raised expectations might not be the only challenge Karlsson faces next season. It appears as though Filip Kuba — his regular defence partner from the past two seasons — will be leaving via free agency. Murray has been noncommittal about bringing the 35-year-old Kuba back for another season. Karlsson and Kuba had terrific chemistry and logged the most ice time out of any Ottawa defensemen last season. Karlsson is not worried that if he loses is regular partner that his own play is going to suffer next season.
“I think Bryan and those guys know what to do. Whoever I end up playing with next year is probably going to be good for me,” said Karlsson. “If it’s Kubs again, I’ll be happy about that. If he goes somewhere else, I’ll be fine with that too. Everyone in the organization has a good plan.”
Karlsson says he has spoken to Daniel Alfredsson a couple of times, but does not have an indication of whether or not the Senators captain is leaning towards retirement.
“He’s in Ottawa right now and I know he’s working out. I don’t really think he knows,” said Karlsson. “It’s a wait and see thing. Hopefully he’ll decide to play another year.”