Monday: The terms first reported by The Athletic’s Jesse Granger of an eight-year pact at a $5.9MM AAV has now been confirmed by the Golden Knights. Karlsson is now locked up through the 2026-27 season at what will be a bargain rate for Vegas if his production remains steady. In the meantime though, CapFriendly estimates that the signing puts the Knights $1.5MM over the off-season salary cap with several restricted free agents still in need of contracts. Vegas fans can celebrate the Karlsson contract now, but cost-cutting measures are coming soon.
Sunday: One of the most important offseason tasks that the Vegas Golden Knights and new general manager Kelly McCrimmon must deal with is trying to lock up restricted free agent forward William Karlsson to a new contract. It looks like that task is close to complete as TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Karlsson is expected to sign an extension later this week and it is believed to be for eight years. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the deal will be for just under $6MM.
LeBrun adds that while Karlsson was pushing for an eight-year deal, the Golden Knights were pushing to keep his AAV under $6MM.
The Golden Knights will have to find a way to unload some cap room as they are over the new $81.5MM cap, however for a period during the offseason, a team can exceed the cap by 10 percent, allowing them to go to $89.65MM if they need to. Regardless, they must unload some salary in order to lock up their own free agents, including Karlsson, KHL star Nikita Gusev, Tomas Nosek, Malcolm Subban and likely Deryk Engelland. The team has discussed moving several players to free up some cap space, including defenseman Colin Miller ($3.88MM AAV), center Cody Eakin ($3.85MM AAV), injured forward David Clarkson’s contract ($5.25MM AAV) and potentially moving Gusev as well.
Karlsson, who could have become an unrestricted free-agent had he opted to force arbitration and take a one-year deal, had made it clear that he has wanted to remain in Vegas, where he loves it. According to LeBrun, the eight-year term was the most important part of the deal. While it’s been clear that Vegas was just as interested in bringing back their top-line center, much of the issue of signing the 26-year-old to a long-term deal was how much to pay him.
Known as one of the Golden Misfits after Columbus left him exposed to the expansion draft after he tallied just 15 goals in two full seasons with the Blue Jackets, Vegas picked him up and he rewarded them by posting a 43-goal, 78-point season in the Golden Knights inaugural season that led them to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, the team was leery of those numbers, however, as Karlsson shot an unbelievable 23.4 percent, a number that wasn’t considered likely to be repeated. The team expected a drop off this year and it came as Karlsson’s numbers dropped to 24 goals and 56 points as his shooting percentage dropped as expected to 14.2 percent.
Regardless, Karlsson has become one of the key faces to the franchise and remains the team’s top center partnered with Jon Marchessault and Reilly Smith for two straight seasons and has always been considered a must-sign, although there has been little doubt that Vegas and Karlsson would get a deal done.