As trade rumors swirl, Karlsson has epic game
Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier were both in the San Jose Sharks' lineup Sunday for their afternoon game with the Washington Capitals. Both were on the team's charter flight back home after the game.
That, in and of itself, might be noteworthy considering the level of speculation that surrounds both players with the NHL's trade deadline less than three weeks away.
For now, though, the Sharks still have both guys on their side, and they helped their team finish off a three-week stretch of road games with a 4-1 win over Washington at Capital One Arena.
Karlsson scored in the third period and assisted on goals by Evgeny Svechnikov and Alexander Barabanov, and goalie Aaron Dell made eight saves in relief of an injured Kaapo Kahkonen, as the Sharks wrapped up an eight-game spell away from home with a 3-3-2 record.
Karlsson's goal came with 7:05 left in the third period. Logan Couture won a faceoff in the Capitals' zone and the puck came to Karlsson, whose shot toward the net from inside the blue line got past a screened Capitals goalie Charlie Lindgren for a 3-1 Sharks lead.
Karlsson now has eight threepoint games this season, setting a new record for a Sharks defenseman.
“It's easier to score with a lot of traffic,” Karlsson said. “Just had to find a way to get the puck through, and I did.”
Tomas Hertl scored an emptynet goal with 2:11 left in the third period to snap a 10-game goalless drought, as the Sharks finished the eight-game stretch with a 3-1-2 record after starting the trip with losses to Columbus and Boston.
The Sharks lost in overtime against Detroit and Carolina and beat Pittsburgh on a five-game road trip before the NHL's All-Star Game on Feb. 4. They then beat Tampa Bay on Tuesday and lost to Florida on Thursday before coming to Washington, D.C.
“The trip didn't get off to a good start with the way we were playing, losing to Columbus and Boston,” Sharks coach David Quinn said. “I just think we played well since then for the most part, other than that first period in Tampa. To go .500 on this trip isn't easy.”
Kahkonen was removed from the game by the NHL's concussion spotter at the 2:56 mark of the second period.
Just eight seconds earlier, Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov took a pass from Erik Gustafsson, went around Sharks defenseman Scott Harrington, and made contact with Kahkonen's head near the crease before he scored his eighth goal of the season.
Quinn said it appeared that Kahkonen was OK after the game. The Sharks next play the Pittsburgh Penguins at home on Tuesday.
Dell replaced Kahkonen for the rest of the second period and into the third, as he played his first NHL game since Dec. 4. He was recalled from the San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks' AHL affiliate, on Saturday after James Reimer came down with what was described by Quinn as a minor illness.
Dell said he found out about the recall around noon Pacific time and boarded a flight to Washington as soon as possible.
“Got here kind of late last night, early game, went right back to the rink right away, so I haven't really had time to think about it a whole lot actually,” Dell said. “It's always great when you stop (every shot).”
Karlsson now has 18 goals and 55 assists in 54 games, as he ranks fourth in the NHL in scoring among all skaters. Barring something unforeseen, he might have already done enough to win a third Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman.
“This is a legit Norris Trophy winner. There's not a better defenseman in the league right now,” Quinn said. “I know the points get a lot of attention, as they should, but all these other things you need a defenseman to do for the most part he's done throughout the season.”
Reports emerged Saturday that the Sharks and Edmonton Oilers have reengaged in trade talks after the two teams spoke about a possible Karlsson deal last month.
For a Karlsson-to-Edmonton deal to work mathematically from a salary cap standpoint, the Sharks would have to retain between $4-5 million of the defenseman's $11.5 million cap hit over the next four years, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said.
The NHL trade deadline is March 3.
“You just take it day by day,” Karlsson said when asked about his approach to the next three weeks. “I don't worry about the circumstantial stuff and the things that I can't control. I take care of myself and I enjoy where I'm at, and I enjoy being around the guys.
“I'm happy to come to the rink every day and that's the most important thing.”
Meier, a pending restricted free agent, didn't get on the scoresheet Sunday but has a team-leading 30 goals in 54 games.
“When you look at the guys that everyone's talking about,” Quinn said Sunday when asked about the trade deadline, “they continue to do the things they've done all year. They haven't slowed down one bit.”