One of the biggest fish in the NHL Free Agent pool looks to be staying put. As reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the San Jose Sharks and defenseman Erik Karlsson have reached agreement on an eight-year contract extension worth $88 million. The deal would make him the highest paid defenseman in the NHL alongside Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings.

Karlsson was acquired by the Sharks prior to the start of the 2018-19 season and played just 53 games because of various injuries. Most notably a reoccurrence of a previous hamstring injury. He tallied 45 points (42) assists in his injury-shortened season. The Sharks came within one game of reaching the Stanley Cup Final this past season. Prior to his year in San Jose, Karlsson spent the previous nine seasons with Ottawa where he was their first-round selection (15th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Karlsson now joins some other early free agent re-signees in Carl Hagelin, Jordan Eberle, and Jeff Skinner who have all elected to re-sign with the current clubs. Foregoing the chance to test the open market.

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What’s Next for the Sharks?

The Sharks came into the offseason with just over $24 million in cap space and a long list of players to sign. If the details of the Karlsson deal are accurate, then nearly half of that is now gone. Karlsson is now the fifth player on the team who carries a cap hit of at least $7 million. He cost the Sharks just $6.5 million last year. Those five players now account for over 40 percent of the Sharks total cap with more work to be done.

General Manager Doug Wilson now must turn his attention towards captain Joe Pavelski and former captain Joe Thornton as they try to make those deals work under the cap. Pavelski, in particular, seems like the more difficult deal to get done under the Sharks current restraints. ‘Little Joe’ signed in 2013 to a 5-year, $30 million dollar deal which carried a $6 million cap hit. Presumably, he would want something similar if not more which would wipe out more of the Sharks dwindling cap space with just seven forwards currently signed for 2019-20.

Thornton, on the other hand, is likely entering his final season in the league and has expressed that he will only play for the Sharks. The 39-year old may be more amenable to taking a deal lower than his $5 million he earned last season.

– Ian Glendon is the Editor-In-Chief of Full Press Coverage and the Managing Editor of FPC NHL. He covers the National Hockey League. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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