Most of the NHL superstars will have to wait until tomorrow's 2012 NHL Awards to receive their gifts, but Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson got a gift a little bit early and it wasn't the Norris Trophy. It was much bigger.
According to The Associated Press (h/t USA Today), Karlsson and the Sens came to terms on a seven-year deal worth $45.5 million and just in time. Karlsson is in Las Vegas for the 2012 NHL Awards, but the timing is even better for another reason.
The 22-year-old defenseman is getting married soon, like in-less-than-three-weeks type of soon. The contract, and the marriage for that matter, are well-deserved for the NHL's top producing defenseman.
Karlsson notched 78 points (19 goals, 59 assists) last season. His 78 points were 25 points more than any other defenseman in the league.
This is an absolutely monstrous signing for the Senators. Much like the signing of current captain and fellow Swede Daniel Alfredsson, the Senators will have a player they can continue to build a franchise around for at least the next seven years.
The Senators went back to the playoffs last year and took the New York Rangers to seven games before bowing out. Karlsson will have to stay hungry and develop into the leader that his contract wants him to be.
So far, so good. Karlsson is taking the new contract in stride, probably due to the outstanding leadership of his captain.
Alfredsson, who could be a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy on a yearly basis, has signed a few multi-million dollar per-year deals in his decorated career, but nothing like Karlsson's.
Still, the captain has a lot he can teach Karlsson. Alfredsson is regarded as one of the hardest working and best two-way players in the game, Karlsson has seen firsthand what strong leadership can do.
Alfredsson may be training his replacement, as well. Alfredsson has been playing for over two decades and the number of years he has left in him is dwindling.
Karlsson, meanwhile, was drafted in 2008 and has developed into arguably the best defenseman in the league (we will find out tonight). I wouldn't be surprised to see him wear the "C" on his sweater in the next couple of seasons.
With the new deal comes added pressure, Karlsson knows that. He answered all the questions correctly in his interview with Dan Rosen of NHL.com after news of the deal broke.
This is a huge signing for the Senators, as well. Well timed, too. With the NHL draft this week, the Sens know exactly what they have or don't have in cap room to deal with this offseason.
Congratulations to the Sens and to Karlsson on a deal well done. And congrats to the Swede on his upcoming marriage. May there be many successful years for you on and off the ice.
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