San Jose Sharks: Rehashing the Karlsson blockbuster trade

SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Erik Karlsson #65 of the San Jose Sharks puts on his teal jersey during a press conference at the Hilton on September 19, 2018 in San Jose, California (Photo by Brandon Magnus/NHLI via Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Erik Karlsson #65 of the San Jose Sharks puts on his teal jersey during a press conference at the Hilton on September 19, 2018 in San Jose, California (Photo by Brandon Magnus/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators completed the blockbuster trade of the summer with headlining defenseman Erik Karlsson making his way to San Jose, reshaping the direction of the two franchises.

The 2018 summer seemed dry in the early stages for the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators.

While the Senators selected Brady Tkachuk, a young phenom from Boston University, with the 4th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Sharks set their eyes on a high-risk, high-reward defenseman with Ryan Merkley as the 21st overall pick.

After that, the Sharks missed out on adding star players to the forward depth with John Tavares and Ilya Kovalchuk finding homes in Toronto and Los Angeles, respectively. The Senators sought a major bounce back with the league’s second worst record (28-43-11) behind the Buffalo Sabres a season ago.

Some say hope was lost for a deal to be struck. However, with Erik Karlsson on the table, The San Jose Sharks and Sens agreed on what could go down as one of the biggest deals in NHL history. September 13th is the day these two franchises will remember for a lifetime.

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The San Jose Sharks acquired Erik Karlsson and Francis Perron for Chris Tierney, Dylan Demelo, Josh Norris, Rudolph Balcers and a couple of conditional first and second round picks.

At first, the Sharks completed the perfect heist to heighten their blue line into one of the strongest defensive cores in the league. By inserting two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson alongside offensive juggernaut Brent Burns and defensive wizard Marc-Eduard Vlasic, it seemed nearly impossible to crack this sturdy wall of resistance.

The San Jose Sharks were clearly the favorite of initial trade thoughts and reactions, but only time could tell how adjusting to a new team would shape up for Karlsson as well as for the new kids with great potential heading to Canada’s capital.

Through two months and some change after the summer blockbuster bargain, the scale has come back down to Earth and transformed into a level-playing field with an equal balance of power and promise.

The San Jose Sharks have been a driving force near the top of the Pacific Division. Despite the bumps and bruises of a falling chemistry, head coach Peter DeBoer continues to find ways to keep all aspects together with his team currently sitting in second place at 15-11-5 (35 points). San Jose’s area of expertise lies in their special teams skills, but 5-on-5 play and a consistent 60-minute effort has proved to be a weak point.

On the other side, the Senators entered this year with one simple goal: start from the ground up. Ottawa had many holes to fill and more than half of their roster consisted of young guys seeking new opportunities, which has turned out to be a nice surprise for the beginning of the season.

The Sen’s near the bottom of the Eastern Conference at 13-14-3 (29 points), but that’s expected for a team on a rebuild with new pieces finding an identity in their system.

However, as for the pieces of the blockbuster trade, it’s fair to say that both sides square off at an equal standstill with much room for improvement.

Erik Karlsson finds himself in a pivotal role on the Sharks blue line, however his numbers have taken a bit of dip this season compared to his nine years as Ottawa’s top blueliner.

It took Karlsson 21 games to find the back of the net for the first time on team teal. Since then, the 28-year-old defenseman has two goals and six assists to add to his 19 points on the year, which is second by a Sharks defenseman behind Brent Burns with 29 points.

Although his counterpart this year has been Brendan Dillon on the third blue line pairing, Karlsson holds extended shifts with Burns on special teams play and during the late stages of periods to give the Sharks the ultimate combination on defense and gain an advantage in each scenario.

As a result, Karlsson leads the Sharks with 24:40 average time on ice per game this season. Karlsson’s exceptional breakout speed and swift stickhandling from the defensive zone has translated into a large volume of odd-man rushes.

However, the San Jose Sharks often fail to capitalize on those chances, making one too many passes or taking a weak shot on goal. With four skaters jumping up on offense, it leaves opponents with an opportunity to counterattack the other way.

We have seen this commonly as a weakness for teams trying to mount a late comeback against the Sharks after getting off to a hot start. Nevertheless, Karlsson is a force to be reckoned with on the loaded Sharks blue line as he continues to establish chemistry and a leadership role in San Jose.

The Sharks also received forward Francis Perron as a “throw-in” to the deal. Perron suffered a wrist injury last year with Belleville. The 22-year-old winger has turned out to be a bright spot with the Barracuda, pacing San Jose’s AHL affiliate with nine goals, 12 assists and 21 points in 20 games.

Looking at the other end of the bargain, Tierney and Demelo have found a home and bigger shoes to fill in Ottawa. As Sharks, Tierney saw time as a solid third line center, Demelo quietly racked up some big minutes in a small sample size. However, they never truly blossomed to their full potential.

With the transition over to the Senators, Tierney is fifth on the team in scoring with three goals and 17 assists in 30 games, including a career-high five powerplay helpers. Tierney is on pace to break his single-season points total set last year (40 points in 82 games) and finds an important role on the second line with former Shark Mikkel Boedker and Ottawa’s rookie sensation Brady Tkachuk.

Demelo has also fit nicely on the top defensive pairing. During his 2017-2018 campaign with San Jose, Demelo recorded no goals and 20 assists in 63 games. Fast forward a year later with a new team, the 25-year-old defenseman has collected three goals and five assists in 30 games. His ice time has significantly increased to an average of nearly 19 minutes per game, which is five minutes more than his tenure with the Sharks.

Part of Demelo’s success has come from the uprising of the league’s highest-scoring defenseman. No, it’s not Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson. It’s Thomas Chabot.

Despite Karlsson shipping out of Ottawa, Chabot has proved he’s more than capable of fulfilling the void as the team’s top sniper from the point. In 30 games, the 22-year-old defenseman boasts eight goals and 25 assists at over a point-per-game pace. That’s more points than Brent Burns and his former teammate, Erik Karlsson. No one expected these numbers after the summer blockbuster trade. Let that sink in.

With a team-high 24:11 average time on ice, Chabot is making the most of his opportunity as the top defenseman, quarterbacking the Senator’s primary powerplay and penalty kill units.

The Senators also gained some young prospects and picks from the trade with forwards Josh Norris and Rudolfs Balcers making an instant impact at the junior level. Norris leads the University of Michigan with 10 goals and his 19 points stands second on the team behind Quinn Hughes. Norris will also represent the team USA for the second year in a row at the U20 World Junior Championship. With Belleville, Balcers has a team-leading 10 goals and 18 points in 25 games as the team’s top left winger.

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As it stands now one-third of the way through the 2018-2019 season, the Karlsson trade looks less in favor of the Sharks, but more like a win-win for both sides with potential to continue to rise onward and upward as this season progresses and the years pan out.