San Jose Sharks star defenseman Erik Karlsson has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a broken thumb. But there is a silver lining behind the injury.
After falling just short of the Stanley Cup Finals last May, the Sharks hoped to reach the postseason for the 15th time in 16 seasons with another strong showing in the 2019-20 campaign.
Only that’s not what happened. Not at all.
The Sharks got off to an atrocious start and never really rebounded falling to the bottom of the Western Conference standings where they currently reside. With a record of 26-28-4, the Sharks sit in 13th place in the conference with little hope of a playoff spot.
Veterans have underperformed, young players have failed to step up, and the goaltending has been an absolute mess. And through it all, the Sharks have seen perhaps their three best players be sidelined with major injuries in a little over a month.
It started with team captain Logan Couture who fractured his ankle on January 7th. That was followed up with Tomas Hertl‘s devastating torn ACL and MCL at the end of the month. And now Erik Karlsson’s broken thumb is just the latest in a tragic series of events.
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But throughout all of this misery, throughout all of this calamity, the Karlsson injury actually provides a bit of a silver lining.
For starters, the injury — although season-ending — is not what Sharks fans feared it would be. When Karlsson tripped over teammate Joe Thornton in the third period of the team’s 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets, fans feared that Karlsson has re-injured his groin.
Karlsson infamously dealt with a nagging groin injury last season that forced him to miss a considerable amount of time in the regular season and the team’s final game of the playoffs in a loss to the eventual-champion St. Louis Blues.
A broken thumb is a freak injury, not an indicator of future injuries to come. This certainly won’t help shed the “injury-prone” label that he has been saddled with, but it shouldn’t be viewed in the same way as if he were to have re-aggravated the groin injury.
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But perhaps more importantly, Karlsson’s injury could allow the Sharks to explore different options ahead of the trade deadline.
With Karlsson ruled out for the season, the Sharks could place Karlsson — and his $11.5 million salary — on the long-term injured reserve thus freeing up additional cap space that could be very useful to the team.
The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz speculates that San Jose “could conceivably take on a hefty, expiring contract in exchange for future assets” with Karlsson’s salary off the books.
Without their first-round pick in the upcoming draft, general manager Doug Wilson will have to get creative when it comes to acquiring young assets and future draft picks. That could be one way to go about doing so.
Erik Karlsson’s injury is yet another thing that has gone awfully wrong for the Sharks this season. But at least this way, the team could turn one of their many negatives into a positive.
And that’s about all San Jose Sharks fans could look forward to until next season.