It had been nearly a full week since Erik Karlsson was traded from the Ottawa Senators to the San Jose Sharks, but on Wednesday the two-time Norris Trophy winner finally joined his new teammates and donned Sharks teal for the first time.
“It was a perfect first day,” Karlsson told reporters at his first official media availability as a member of the Sharks alongside team general manager Doug Wilson and coach Peter DeBoer.
Karlsson’s arrival in San Jose was delayed due to visa issues, but after several days in Ottawa spent handling some personal business he arrived in California late Tuesday ready to begin a new phase of his life and career.
The all-star defenceman said all he did after landing was eat some pizza and head off to bed, but the work began Wednesday morning when he arrived at his new team’s facility, met the training staff and joined the Sharks at practice.
Although he felt his first day with the Sharks was “perfect,” he also described his final season in Ottawa as a “perfect storm the wrong way.”
Karlsson didn’t add much more when asked about his former team other than to thank the organization and its fans for their support over the years.
“That was their decision to go the way they did and I respect that,” Karlsson said of Ottawa trading him after nine seasons spent with the organization. “It’s part of the business. I wish them nothing but the best. The guys that are there playing right now are good friends of mine, guys that I played with for a long time [but] from my perspective I’m looking forward to my next chapter.”
He also deflected a question regarding the fact he’s entering the final year of his contract and it’s no secret the Sharks want to lock him up to a long-term extension.
“As of right now I’m just focused on starting the season as good as I possibly can to help this team win games,” Karlsson explained. “That’s where I’m at right now and we’ll go from there.”
That next chapter he spoke of will see Karlsson playing on a stacked blue line that already featured fellow Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns and Olympic gold medallist Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
“I like to see challenges in everything and I think it’s going to be a fun challenge for not only me but this whole team,” Karlsson said. “They’ve been a successful team for a number of years, they were extremely good last year and I’m extremely excited to be part of a good organization and a good hockey club right from the start.
“I’m going to do everything I can to fit in as good as I possibly can and be able to play the best hockey that I know I can do and, for me, I see this as an extremely motivating challenge to try and grow as a player and as a person.”
All eyes on the new guy @ErikKarlsson65 pic.twitter.com/V3kbOjUAbN
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) September 19, 2018
Karlsson skated beside Vlasic during even-strength drills Wednesday, while Burns was paired with Justin Braun.
Seeing the top two offensive-minded defenceman in the NHL on separate pairings can’t be a pleasant feeling for Western Conference teams sizing up the latest edition of the Sharks.
Karlsson and Burns sit one-two, respectively, in points among defenceman since Karlsson entered the league in 2009. Both players routinely log upwards of 30 minutes of ice-time per night so one of those two players could conceivably be on the ice at all times for the Sharks.
Even though they’re likely to be split up five-on-five, fans can also expect to see the two right-shot studs on the ice together in certain situations.
Karlsson was teamed up with Burns and team captain Joe Pavelski during a three-on-three drill and that trio raised some eyebrows with what they were able to do.
“Playing three-on-three with Burnzie and Pav I think is not too shabby,” Karlsson added with a smirk.
Looking good out there. pic.twitter.com/TCdyCzBioL
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) September 19, 2018
Wilson said it would be an understatement to say Sharks players were excited to welcome Karlsson into the locker room. DeBoer mentioned he’s looking forward to seeing what Karlsson does in his own end of the ice as well.
“What I love about Erik’s game, everybody looks at the offence, but he’s an exceptional defensive player, too,” DeBoer said. “So, I think we can use him in every situation. There’s very few players in the world that I would term you can use in the last minute of games when you’re up, or you’re down, to shut down the other team’s best players to create offence when you’re from behind, and he’s one of those guys. He has those type of tools. We’re going to use him in a lot of different ways.”
DeBoer expects Karlsson will see action “in a couple exhibition games” but is in no rush to insert him into the lineup, so don’t expect to see him Thursday when the Sharks visit the Ducks for a pre-season contest.
“I don’t think Erik has to adapt at all [to our system],” DeBoer said. “He’s just going to do what he does. He’s one of the best players on the planet and we just need him to do what he’s done for his whole career. … We play up tempo, we play aggressive, we play the way he plays. He’s going to fit right in.”
Karlsson said he feels his extensive history playing for the Swedish national team will help him adapt quickly to a group of players he’s currently unfamiliar with.
“If we do what we have to do, which I have strong beliefs we will, it’s going to be an exciting and fun year for everyone,” Karlsson added.