Senators sign Karlsson to seven-year, $45.5 million deal

Erik Karlsson has hit the jackpot.

Senators sign Karlsson to seven-year, $45.5 million deal

LAS VEGAS — In the city where colossal fortunes are often made instantly, Ottawa Senators star defenceman Erik Karlsson has hit the jackpot.

Karlsson signed a seven-year, $45.5 million contract with the organization on Tuesday, keeping him locked up until the end of the 2018-19 season.

Karlsson was scheduled to become a restricted free agent on July 1 and before the deal came quickly together between the player, his agents and Senators general manager Bryan Murray here, it was thought that the sides were headed for a long, drawn-out summer full of negotiations.

Instead, there were smiles all around Tuesday for the player Murray called a “cornerstone guy” for the franchise.

“It’s fair for me and I’m happy with everything (the Senators) have done for me,” said Karlsson, with his hair slicked back and wearing a white T-shirt that showed off a deep tan. “It’s seven years. It’s a big commitment on their side and I’m very pleased they were able to do that. It really shows they believe in what I do and they want me to a big part of this organization.”

Karlsson, who is vying for the James Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman at the league’s award ceremonies here Wednesday, scored 19 goals and 59 assists during the 2011-12 season, dominating the scoring race among defencemen and shattering the Senators record for points by a defenceman in a season.

Karlsson will make an average of $6.5 million per season during the length of the deal, second highest on the Senators behind Jason Spezza‘s $7 million annually. Karlsson’s contract is also in line with the seven-year, $49 million contract Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty signed last year.

Murray also said he was “very pleased” to have been able to get the contract wrapped up so quickly, saying that Karlsson still has room to get better as he matures.

“When you see a guy rise the way he has, it’s real important to keep him,” he said. “It took a little bit of time, a bit of effort from both parties, but to get it done, and get it done at this time of year, is real important.”

The early negotiations had been cordial, but the chance of a deal being reached here heated up after Murray arrived in Las Vegas on Monday and met with a foursome of Karlsson’s representatives to work out the finer details.

“Over a couple of hours, we kind of went from not having a deal, wondering if it would take part of the summer, to getting it done,” Murray said. “To their credit, they went back to Erik and fairly quickly they got back to me and agreed.”

The one sticking point was the length of the contract, which also involved Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.

“The negotiations were not difficult,” Melnyk said. “He loves the city. He’s committed to being a community person, which is important to us, as well, for becoming a role model for the younger fans in Ottawa.”

While the dollars involved are enormous, Melnyk says it’s the price an organization has to pay to keep its most talented players.

“There are core, elite players that you are going to have to step up and pay, but that’s part of our budgeting process,” he said. “We knew this all along, but we will still remain fiscally responsible, which is important for sustaining the team successfully in Ottawa for a long, long time. He is part of the building blocks of what we hope will be a Stanley Cup champion one day.”

Karlsson says he was relieved that there “was no back stabbing or anything like that” during the negotiations.

“I am a part of everything and we’ve been talking for a couple of weeks now and everything has been going along well,” he said. “Everybody is here (in Las Vegas) right now. It feels good to stand eye to eye and everybody is happy. I couldn’t be more grateful than I am right now.”

Now that he’s become incredibly rich, on a par with the league’s best players, Karlsson understands that the pressures on him to be a standout all the time will rise accordingly.

“It’s going to be higher expectations from everyone, especially you guys (reporters),” said Karlsson, who has never lacked for confidence. “That’s the way it is, something that comes with this work. It’s not something that has snuck up on me. I try to play my best every night, that’s all I can do. And I’m not happy where I am today. I will try to be better and the Senators give me the capacity to do that.”

The defenceman is on quite the roll. In addition to the huge contract, he’ll take centre stage Wednesday at the awards show. He leaves home for Sweden on Thursday and in two weeks will get married. After that, comes the honeymoon — as if he hasn’t had enough of one already.

“This has got to be the highlight of his life,” said Melnyk. “In a very short period of time, he’s secured himself a great livelihood with a great organization. He’s up for best defenceman and that means a lot for any player. To be the best in the world, even nominated to be the best, has got to be a childhood dream that he’s now living.

“It’s interesting that it’s here in Las Vegas, the city of dreams. But for him, it has actually come true.”

Tags: ,

What do you think? Leave a comment