There are hundreds of potential scenarios with trades and free agents that could shape the 2019-20 season, and every team will be looking for the deal that puts them over the top like the one St. Louis made for Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly last offseason. But there are some player and team decisions that will have a tremendous impact on the entire landscape of the offseason. Let’s have a look at the 10 most notable.
Will Erik Karlsson choose to stay with the Sharks?
While San Jose’s season did not end with the team’s first Stanley Cup championship, Karlsson proved that he can keep the team’s window to win open if he sticks around. Karlsson produced 45 points in 53 games and — as per usual — drove play to the tune of an outstanding 59.2 Corsi for percentage. When Karlsson was off the ice, the Sharks saw their Corsi drop by 6.6 percentage points and goals for percentage sink by 4.1 percentage points. Simply put: The Swedish star was every bit the difference-maker that the Sharks hoped for when they acquired him.
If Karlsson leaves in free agency, the Sharks will either have to become a major player for other top free agents or trade targets, or they will have to seriously consider another retooling-on-the-fly period.
A Karlsson bidding war would have a domino effect on the entire league. His services could turn any team into a playoff contender and a good team into a Cup favorite. However, if he re-signs with the Sharks, we will see the value of other available defenders skyrocket.