Melker Karlsson Already Doug Wilson’s Best Free Agent?

A Top Rated GM

doug wilson nhl
Doug Wilson (Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE)

San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson is widely considered a top GM in the NHL and rightfully so as his Sharks are in position for their 11th straight playoff birth. San Jose’s current run is the second longest streak going behind only the Detroit Red Wings. The Sharks GM has been masterful at trading for core players like Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, and the recently departed Dan Boyle. He has also re-signed his core players like Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to team friendly extensions over the years. Furthermore, recent Sharks draft choices like Tommy Wingels, Justin Braun, Matt Nieto, and Tomas Hertl have also made an impact at the NHL level. Regardless of how much praise deserves to be thrown the way of director of scouting Tim Burke, Wilson certainly gets credit for pulling the trigger on draft day as well. The GM has built a competitive team for a decade and that is impressive. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Wilson has struggled to attract and sign free agents.

While signing marquee free agents from other teams isn’t a prerequisite to winning a Stanley Cup, it has certainly helped teams do just that. Sure enough the Los Angeles Kings are almost entirely home grown or acquired through trades, but the Chicago Blackhawks signed both Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa to big free-agent contracts that helped lead them to the 2010 Stanley Cup. The Sharks meanwhile have signed a number of free agents over the years but the list is incredibly underwhelming.

Free Agent Strike Outs

From the end of the 2009-10 season through 2013-14, the Sharks have essentially (waiver pickup and trade and sign included) signed the following free agents:

Antti Niemi, Antero Niittymaki, Jamal Mayers, Kyle Wellwood, Michal Handzus, Jim Vandermeer, Brad Winchester, Colin White, Adam Burish, Brad Stuart, Scott Gomez, and John Scott.

Outside of Niemi, who has struggled in three of four playoffs since becoming a Shark, the rest of this group is a bunch of guys at the tail end of their careers who provided next to nothing in teal. If we go back further, there are some much better performers acquired via free agency but merely veteran stop gaps.

From the end of the 2005-06 season through to 2009-10, the Sharks signed the following free agents:

Mike Grier, Curtis Brown, Jeremy Roenick, Sandis Ozolinsh, Manny Malhotra, and Rob Blake.

This group of free agents is a much better list but none of them lasted in San Jose for more than two seasons. Certainly in their first years with the Sharks both Rob Blake and Jeremy Roenick were terrific. Not to mention Manny Malhotra was excellent in his lone year in 2009-10 but all of it was short lived.

Over the course of the Joe Thornton era, the Sharks have simply not signed a single free agent who has become a consistent impact player over multiple seasons. The only one that comes close is Niemi but nobody, not even for those who steadfastly defend the Sharks goaltender, can say Niemi has exceeded expectations.

Is Karlsson Wilson’s Best?

Melker Karlsson San Jose Sharks
Melker Karlsson is on a five-game goal scoring streak – something that fantasy managers have undoubtedly noticed by now. (Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports)

Now certainly it is hard to argue that Blake’s 2008-09 season wasn’t better than what Sharks rookie free agent forward Melker Karlsson has done this season. However, at 24-years-old and a restricted free agent this offseason, Karlsson looks to be a big part of San Jose’s future. Thus far in 25 games since being recalled from AHL Worcester on Dec. 9, Karlsson has scored nine goals and added five assists for 14 points. A small sample size, and not the type of impact that Blake had in 2008-09 but his performance this year is arguably a bigger deal than Blake’s was back then. With the Sharks frequently striking out on free agents in recent years, Karlsson’s rise is a big deal. As a free agent rookie playing on the top line, the Sharks might finally have signed an impact player that looks like he will last for more than just two seasons. There is a strong argument to be had that Karlsson’s production so far in 25 games makes him the best free agent forward the Sharks have signed over the last decade. Roenick and Malhotra were good but they weren’t top line players. Overall Karlsson is not yet Wilson’s best free agent but certainly outside the goaltending position, he is the most notable one in a long, long time.

12 thoughts on “Melker Karlsson Already Doug Wilson’s Best Free Agent?”

    • You could argue that, but the reality is that great players often come from the top 5 and he’s had none of those picks. I don’t think you can make a case that a decades worth of picks has produced an elite set of drafts. Pavs, Couture and Vlasic stand out, we’ll see how good Hertl, Mueller, etc turn out. Even after a decade, the vast majority are still not even 30.

  1. And not a chance that Karlsson is anywhere near Roenick? Are you crazy Roenick scored how many goals and provided leadership. Your comparing a hall of fame player to a one year wonder? Remember the name Nils Ekman

    • to be fair, that HOF player was on his last legs when he was here, he’s not getting any HOF votes based on how he played as a Shark.

      • 07-08 JR was a nice addition, scored like 10 GWG during the regular season. like 30 something points that year. Karlsson has 9 goals and 14 points in 25 games, similar production over a smaller sample.

  2. Zeke, where Wilson has stuck out is in goal and on defense. Wilsons goalie pick ups have been terrible, his picking up of defenseman even worse. The third line for years was fine, it was and is not able the lower two lines, it’s about defense and goaltending.

    • A while back, I complied DW’s draft choices and since he’s a decade into his job, you can field a team and figure out how good he is. This is an overview of that, with the most recent years TBD

      Doug Wilson drafts
      top pick: 6th overall Milan Michalek
      also 16th overall Steve Bernier, Matt Carle, Joe Pavelski

      top pick: 22nd (Lukas Kaspar)
      also Greiss, TMitchell

      top pick: 8th Seotguchi
      also, Stalock, Vlasic

      2006 top pick: 16 Ty Wishart
      also, Jamie McGinn

      2007 top pick: 9 Logan Couture
      also 28, Petrecki
      Bonino, Braun

      2008 top pick (none in round 1 or 2)
      also, Wingels, Demers

      2009 top pick (none in round 1)
      also, na

      2010 top pick 28 Colye
      also, na

      2011 top pick (none in round 1)
      also Nieto

      2012 top pick 17 Hertl

      2013 top pick 18 Mueller

      first round picks by slot:
      6, 16, 22, 8, 9, 16, 28, 28, 17, 18

      First round picks:
      top 5 (0)
      6-10 (3) Michalek, Couture, Setoguchi
      11-20 (4) Wishart, Mueller, Bernier, Hertl
      21-30 (3) Coyle, Petrecki, Kaspar

      Put together the line-up from DW’s 11 years of drafting:
      1: Pavelski, Hertl, Couture
      2: Coyle, McGinn, Michalek
      3: Nieto, Wingels, Setoguchi
      4: Bonino, Mitchell, Bernier

      1: Vlasic, Carle
      2: Braun, Demers
      3: …?

      G: Stalock, Greiss

  3. I wouldn’t call several of the signings ‘strike-outs’. Many of them were for minimal $$ with the intent on their having modest roles. Kyle Wellwood, Jamal Mayers and John Scott all exceeded their modest deals. As did Manny Malhotra, And Scott Nichol (forget how we acquired him). Where DW has struck out is on the 3rd line sorts, whether acquired by trade of vis FA. Paying guys like Burish, Torres, etc 3rd line sort of $$ for limited play, that’s been costly on 2 fronts. First, wasted $$ and second, we really have needed a good 3rd line to compliment a pretty strong top 6. Good teams roll 4 lines and the Sharks seem to always come up a line short.

    • Scott was a complete waste of a signing. Nobody expected him to sign anywhere and the Sharks were laughed at by the masses for that one, and rightfully so. Totally forgot about Scott Nichol in the second group of UFAs, that group was a better group of ufas. The point was they havent brought anyone in from the UFA market that has then established a long term role here.

      • I’ll disagree on Scott. For all the “laughter”, the Sharks have done well with him in the line-up. I was more puzzled by the Mike Brown signing, 2 years (why?) and over 50% more $$ per year (why?) than Scott — to do much the same thing.

    • Id say Blake was a better one season performance than short term Karlsson so far but the point is the Sharks havent made many significant UFA signings. Could argue Karlsson has already made a bigger regular season impact than malhotra or Roenick playing on the top line.

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