SOUND­ING OFF ON SENS’ SI­LENCE

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How ex­actly did the Ot­tawa Se­na­tors end up in a sit­u­a­tion where they were forced to part ways with their cap­tain and ar­guably the best de­fence­man in the world?Ac­cord­ing to Erik Karls­son, you’ll have to ask own­er­ship or man­age­ment. He would do it him­self, but the last time he sat down and talked with owner Eu­gene Mel­nyk or gen­eral man­ager Pierre Do­rion was 10 months ago.“I haven’t spo­ken to any of them re­ally since No­vem­ber of last year when they asked for my no-trade list,” Karls­son told Post­media News in a one-on-one in­ter­view Thurs­day. “That’s the way it is, I guess. That’s the only sit­u­a­tion I know that’s been like this. It was what it was. I was there to play hockey and I did that to the best of my abil­ity with what we had. That’s all that I wor­ried about.“Ev­ery­thing else around it is above my pay grade. That’s not my ques­tion to ask.”That the two sides went nearly a year with­out talk­ing be­fore Karls­son was ul­ti­mately shipped off to San Jose for an un­der­whelm­ing pack­age of prospects, picks and depth play­ers il­lus­trates just how toxic the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Karls­son and the Se­na­tors had be­come in Ot­tawa.Karls­son spent nine years in Ot­tawa. He won two Nor­ris tro­phies with the Se­na­tors and led the team to the doorstep of the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal in 2017. The city was his home. It still is with he and wife Melinda de­cid­ing to hang on to their house for now.And yet, when it was fi­nally time to go, the team sent him pack­ing with­out much more than a wave of the hand.Did it hurt?“It’s dis­ap­point­ing,” said Karls­son. “I was there for nine sea­sons. I never had any is­sues with the group of guys that we had in that locker-room play­ing hockey. Ev­ery­one that we had was ex­tremely pro­fes­sional and tried to do the best with what we had. Ev­ery­thing else that went around it is some­thing that we couldn’t con­trol. All that other stuff is a ques­tion for some­one else that’s above the play­ers.”It’s no se­cret that Karls­son prob­a­bly priced him­self out of the small-mar­ket city when he said he wouldn’t be will­ing to take a home­town dis­count to stay with the Se­na­tors. “When I go to mar­ket, I’m go­ing to get what I’m worth,” he told the Cit­i­zen in De­cem­ber. “And it’s go­ing to be no less.”Those com­ments came shortly af­ter the Se­na­tors had traded away Kyle Tur­ris fol­low­ing an un­suc­cess­ful con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tion, af­ter which Tur­ris crit­i­cized own­er­ship for not want­ing to pay him what he was worth. At the same time, Karls­son made it clear he was will­ing to re­turn to Ot­tawa for the fi­nal sea­son of his con­tract, though it ap­pears the door had closed on him sign­ing an ex­ten­sion be­yond that.“I’m sure that peo­ple are won­der­ing what ac­tu­ally hap­pened, but that’s not some­thing that I’m go­ing to get into,” said Karls­son. “I think ev­ery­one’s en­ti­tled to their own opin­ion. At the end of the day, they traded me.“I have one more year on my deal. It was not my de­ci­sion. I had noth­ing to do with it. It was part of the busi­ness. I have to re­spect their de­ci­sion, whether I agree with it or not. That’s the re­al­ity we’re in right now. I try not to read too much into it. As I said, if I were to have left next sum­mer, then it prob­a­bly would have been dif­fer­ent. My job at the end of the day is to play hockey for what­ever team I am with.I did that for nine years and I think I did it to the best of my abil­ity.”So now he moves on. He has only been in San Jose for two days, but the dif­fer­ences be­tween here and where he came from could not be more dif­fer­ent. And it has noth­ing to do with the weather. Af­ter all, it’s just as warm in Ot­tawa right now as it is in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia.No, the change is in the cul­ture. And it be­gins up top. Karls­son has al­ready met with Sharks ma­jor­ity owner Hasso Plat­tner, who shared his vi­sion and phi­los­o­phy on run­ning a hockey team. Call him the anti-Mel­nyk.“The way that they think an or­ga­ni­za­tion like this should be run is ex­tremely well planned out and pre­pared,” said Karls­son. “I think that the fact that they’ve been able to do so many ex­ten­sions here in the past (with other ac­quired play­ers) re­ally speaks vol­umes about what a great place it is to live and to play for.”It’s hard not to hear that and treat it as a jab at Mel­nyk, who dur­ing Karls­son’s fi­nal two years in Ot­tawa pushed out fran­chise icon Daniel Al­freds­son, threat­ened to move the team and then sold off sev­eral of their best as­sets in a hastily planned re­build.In San Jose, the con­cern isn’t over the pay­roll. The Sharks want to win a cham­pi­onship. And they’re pre­pared to spend what­ever it takes. That’s why they ac­quired Karls­son. All he has to do is go out and play.It’s a re­fresh­ing con­cept. “You don’t have to do too much,” said Karls­son. “You just have to fol­low the stream and learn. I’ve been here two days. But from the two days that I’ve been here, ev­ery­thing has been over the top. I’m ex­tremely ex­cited to see that through mov­ing for­ward.”As for his much-an­tic­i­pated re­turn to Ot­tawa on Dec. 1, Karls­son hasn’t cir­cled the date on his cal­en­dar. But he is look­ing for­ward to prop­erly say­ing good­bye to the city. He didn’t get to do that at his exit news con­fer­ence, mainly be­cause he was still in shock over the trade.“Even though there had been a lot of spec­u­la­tion and talk about it for a long time, I don’t think it be­came real un­til it hap­pened,” said Karls­son. “There’s a lot of emo­tions fly­ing around. Once you start to talk about it and re­al­ize that this is go­ing to be the last time that you’re speak­ing in that set­ting, I think it hits you a lit­tle. You’re leav­ing your home.“It’s ob­vi­ously go­ing to be a fun night com­ing back. When I do come back, there’s go­ing to be a lot of friends and fam­ily in the stands. Hope­fully, ev­ery­thing goes as smooth as pos­si­ble.”

Erik Karls­son said the last time he sat down to talk with Se­na­tors GM Pierre Do­rion and owner Eu­gene Mel­nyk was last No­vem­ber, when he was asked for his no-trade list.

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