The San Jose Sharks will be without their $11.5MM man for the next few months, as Erik Karlsson underwent surgery yesterday to repair a small muscle tear in his left forearm. The team explained that though recovery time can vary in injuries like this, Karlsson is expected to be re-evaluated partway through March.
It’s a brutal blow for Karlsson particularly, given his bounce-back season so far. The 31-year-old had already passed his 2020-21 points total by registering 26 in 33 games this season, good enough for 15th among all NHL defensemen (even higher when looking at points-per-game). His possession numbers had rebounded, solid reports were coming out about his defensive play, and even though he’s still overpaid as the fourth-highest cap hit in the league, his contract didn’t seem as devastating.
Now, with an absence of at least two months, he’ll have to once again rededicate himself to a recovering from injury instead of helping the Sharks.
Karlsson’s career thus far has been a wild ride, with some suggesting that for a time he was the best hockey player in the world. It certainly seemed that way when he carried the Senators to within a goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, averaging more than 28 minutes a night. A two-time Norris Trophy winner, and four-time Hart Trophy nominee, injuries have negatively affected what is still likely to be a Hall of Fame career. Karlsson already ranks 31st all-time in points by a defenseman, and he’s racked up those 651 in just 821 regular season games. Among defensemen who have played at least 500 games, his 0.79 points-per-game rate is 12th all-time.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, he just can’t seem to stay healthy. Karlsson still has five years left on the massive, eight-year, $92MM contract he signed in 2019 and will carry an $11.5MM cap hit through 2026-27. Hopefully, this most recent injury will not have any lasting effects and he can get back to playing good hockey for the team later this season.
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