You can forgive an athlete from any sport for taking time to adjust to new surroundings. Maybe it’s unsettling moving to a new city on your own or having to find schools for any children, maybe it’s just taking a while to adjust to a new coaching system, or maybe it’s just adjusting to new teammates.
What I’m trying to say really, is that if a player joins a team and doesn’t hit the ground running, that’s expected.
I guess we forgot to tell that to William Karlsson then.
After making his NHL Debut in the 2014/15 season, and then being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, I think it was fair to say that Karlsson was a decent player but not one you’d expect to lead the charge when the Vegas Golden Knights picked him up at the expansion draft.
Now the 25-year-old Swede is about to become a restricted free-agent who’s about to get PAID.
In 2016/17 for Columbus, Karlsson played in all but one game posting 25 points in 81 games. This year he featured in every game of the Golden Knights unbelievable season posting an incredible 78 points in 82 games, and his 43 goals on the year were only beaten by Alex Ovechkin with 49 and Patrik Laine with 44.
I’m not going to go into detail on how Karlsson achieved this meteoric rise, because quite frankly I don’t want to write that and you don’t want to read that.
What I will do however, is explain why William Karlsson is about to earn big money in a city that is designed for you to lose money.
Back in 2011, Karlsson was taken by the Anaheim Ducks with the 53rd pick in the draft then proceeded to spend the next three years back in his native Sweden playing for VIK Vasteras HK in the Allsvenskan and then HV71 in the SHL.
It wasn’t until the 2014-15 season that Karlsson made his NHL debut, featuring 18 times for the Ducks and posting three points, before closing out the season with the Columbus Blue Jackets and their farm team Springfield Falcons.
Before Karlsson was exposed ahead of last years Expansion Draft, he’d posted 50 points in 183 games.
Fast forward one year and those totals are now 128 points in 265 games. Not a bad season by any stretch of the imagination.
Looking at the Blue Jackets roster from last season, it’s not really a suprise they left him exposed. He was 12th on the team in scoring, and his six goals were good enough for 14th. So honestly, nobody was surprised that Karlsson was left available, and nobody expected him to have the season he’s just had (and still having in the playoffs, heading into game four of the Stanley Cup Finals his 15 points in 18 games are third on the team behind Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith.
So, how much is Karlsson realistically going to get this summer?
Let’s not forget that he’s had one fantastic year, so it’s not like he’s proven himself since making his NHL debut so who’s to say his production doesn’t drop off slightly next year? He’s set the bar high.
He’s going to get a huge raise on his $1,000,000 he’s earning on his current deal.
Earlier this season, George McPhee the Golden Knights GM penned a new contract for Jonathan Marchessault at six-years with an average annual value of $5 million, while at the time he sort of hinted that an extension was on the cards for Karlsson to keep him with his linemates Marchessault and Reilly Smith (both are under contract until 2021-22)
So with Marchessault a good comparable, it’s fair to make a ballpark guess at $5 million a season for Karlsson, but it could be slightly more or slightly less.
Other players you could compare Karlsson too (who also have more of a proven track record) include Bryan Little of the Winnipeg Jets and Karlssons former teammate Alexander Wennberg, with Little earning an AAV of $5.2 mil and $4.9 mil for Wennberg.
So it could be anywhere between $4.5 – $5.5 mil for Karlsson when his pay day comes this summer, it’s just a negotiation on term that remains to be seen.
I’m sure Golden Knights would want to keep William Karlsson in Vegas for quite a number of years, so make it happen George McPhee.
Featured Image – Ethan Miller/Getty Images