Enter the San Jose Sharks with adding Erik Karlsson to their vaunted blue line.
The Golden Knights — the reigning Pacific Division champions — watched San Jose seamlessly add the two-time Norris Trophy winner for virtually nothing. But the thoughts on the trade seem to be the same for Vegas:
Good for them.
“They’re getting the best defenseman in the world,” said leading goal scorer William Karlsson. “Good for them. They’re really stacked with Burns and Karlsson there. It’s going to be tough, but fun to play against those guys.”
The Golden Knights defeated the Sharks in six games in the second round of last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. To better their playoff chances, the Sharks acquired forward Evander Kane from the Buffalo Sabres at February’s trade deadline. Kane, who was set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, signed a seven-year deal worth $49 million to stay in the Bay Area.
With the trade for Karlsson, the Sharks have their sights on a Stanley Cup and nothing less. Reaching that pinnacle first goes through the Golden Knights, who also hold the claim of the reigning Western Conference champions.
“It is, it is,” said goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury about how deep San Jose’s collection is on defense. “I think them and Nashville probably have the strongest [defense]. ... They obviously have a lot of talent, a lot of skills, a lot of puck movement. We’re going to have to keep an eye on them.”
The addition of Karlsson is not just a seismic shift caused by the Sharks. It’s another one of many moves made within the Pacific Division this offseason that has bolstered the overall competitive balance within a division that was lackluster a season ago.
- The Golden Knights, in addition to acquiring Pacioretty, signed Paul Stastny to a three-year, $19.5 million deal.
- The Calgary Flames signed former Golden Knights forward James Neal to a five-year contract. They also acquired Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin from the Carolina Hurricanes and signed them to long-term contracts.
- The Arizona Coyotes traded for forward Alex Galchenyuk, signed defenseman Kevin Connauton, and signed forward Michael Grabner. Oh, and they extended now-captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson for the next eight years.
- The Los Angeles Kings added offensive firepower with signing Ilya Kovalchuk.
- The Anaheim Ducks are still going to be a playoff threat despite not doing much, other than extending Adam Henrique for five more years.
- Even the Edmonton Oilers can’t be expected to be as bad this year.
- Meanwhile, we’re waiting on the Vancouver Canucks.
“I think a lot of teams look better now than they did before,” Karlsson said. “It’s going to be a lot tougher, it feels like. We’ve just got to be ready for it and be aware that other teams are coming for us.”
The first Vegas-San Jose meeting is Nov. 24 at T-Mobile Arena, one day after the Golden Knights welcome Neal back for the first time. Those days following Thanksgiving just became more stuffed.
“Good for them,” forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “They had a good team. We’re talking about one of, or the best defenseman in the league right now. It’s not a bad addition to their group. Good for them.”