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SAN JOSE, Calif. – Before Mike Grier was the first-year general manager of the San Jose Sharks or a special advisor to the general manager of the New York Rangers, he was a coach.

Grier has coached at several levels. One of the players he showed his players videos of was two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson. Now, Grier is Carlson’s boss, and what happens to his star quarterback could have a dramatic impact on the franchise.

Karlsson is having a season for generations, leading the NHL in even strength and all defensemen in goals and points. He could be the first defenseman to reach 100 points in three decades.

“I think this is Eric,” Grier said. “I think he’s had some injury issues and hasn’t played up to his standard, but I think the state of mind he’s in and his health, I really believe that’s who he is as a player.”

While Karlsson is again a Norris contender, the Sharks have finished in the bottom of the standings for the fourth consecutive season. The road back to the playoffs and Stanley Cup contention may involve separating Grier from Carlson.

Completing it will not be an easy deal. Karlsson has a full no-movement clause in his contract, so he would have to approve any deal. He’s also 32 years old with 4 years left in this one, which is $11.5 million against the salary cap.

“There’s interest in him,” Grier said. “There are teams that have reached out about him. I think it’s natural for teams to kick the tires and it’s my job to listen to all the suggestions and see what’s best for the organization in the short and long term.”

Karlsson has said several times this season that he wants to win. That is his priority. After this season, Karlsson has $39 million in actual dollars remaining on his contract, just under the cap of $46 million.

The Sharks could retain a portion of his contract in a trade. They could work with a third team to eat some of the money to further help a franchise trying to acquire him.

The amount involved, regardless of what is or isn’t retained, also complicates the Sharks’ potential return. Edmonton Oilers broadcaster Bob Stauffer The Sharks reportedly want three first-round picks in a trade for Karlsson, and they are willing to retain 18 percent of the contract (the maximum allowed is 50 percent).

“I’m not really going to get into what we’re asking for, but I think it’s not entirely accurate,” Grier said of the report. “Whatever it is, it has to be a proposal that we feel makes us stronger in the future and gives us an opportunity to help turn this situation around a little bit faster. It has to be something that makes sense to us as an organization.”

Trading Karlsson could change the landscape of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but he’s not the only player Grier could move between now and the March 3 deadline. Here are five other highlights from Grier’s meeting with members of the local media Friday night.

1. Teams have also called about Timo Mayer. Meyer scored a career-high 35 goals last season and has 45 goals this year (24 in 43 games).

He is also a restricted free agent after this season, and the Sharks must tender him $10 million to retain his rights if they do not work out a contract extension.

“We have conducted negotiations (on the contract),” Grier said. “We haven’t really gotten very far in the way of proposals or anything, but we’ve had good, open, honest, positive conversations up to this point.”

Mayer’s agent is Claude Lemieux, who was teammates with Grier in the Sharks. San Jose signed Karlsson, Thomas Hertl, Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, all under contracts for at least the next four seasons for a combined total of more than $34 million.

29-year-old Hertl is the youngest of the four. Unlike the other star players on this team, Meyer does not have trade protection in his contract and could command significant revenue in a deal as potentially the best forward available before the deadline.

“Timo is a special player,” Grier said. “I think you start a team from scratch and you have the opportunity to get someone like Timo, you take him and put him under your wing and forget about him for the next 10 years.

“He’s big. He is fast. He can score. There is a lot of interest in him.”

2. The Sharks have several pending unrestricted free agents, led by forwards Nick Bonino and Matt Nieto and goaltender James Reimer. All three are considered key veteran leaders in the Sharks’ locker room, but the NHL’s 28th-ranked team doesn’t make a habit of holding out for much-awaited UFAs at the deadline.

“You get to that time of year and guys like that are valuable for a reason,” Grier said. “As much of a reason why we want them here, around our young guys and kind of driving the culture, it’s the same reason that playoff teams are going to be interested in them. It’s no different than Eric or Timo. It’s my job to listen if somebody makes a call about those guys and make the decision that’s best for the organization.”

3. Another player likely to be traded is Ryan Merkley, the club’s 2018 first-round pick. Merkley, who played 39 games for the Sharks last season but has spent all of this year with the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL, recently requested a trade and has not been with the team.

Grier said he was not surprised by the request, given the conversations he and assistant GM Joe Will had with Merkley and his conversations with Merkley’s agent, J.P. With Barry.

“I don’t think he was thrilled that he didn’t go to Europe to begin with,” Grier said. “There are things that we value as an organization that we’ve asked him to do more consistently. And there was no consistency from his point of view. He has NHL talent. He can run power plays. He has excellent eyesight. But to play in the NHL, you have to defend consistently, you have to be involved whether you’re a big guy or a small guy, and you have to be willing to be physically involved in your cause, take care of the box. exits and such. I think he’s just been very inconsistent with it.”

Grier said there have been some calls involving Merkley. He also noted that if he shows improvement in the things that have been asked of him, then there will be opportunities for him here.

4. Two other players who saw little action with the Sharks last season, top prospects William Eklund and Thomas Bordello, also spent the entire season with the Barracuda.

Bordello leads all rookies with 17 goals and was named to the AHL All-Star Game. He and Eklund both have 25 points in 37 games, tied for second on the club.

“They’re both gifted offensive players,” Grier said. “They both have to learn to appreciate the other side of ball management and things like that. It’s kind of just becoming a more well-rounded player.

“There is no specific time (to call). I think we sent those guys specific things we wanted them to work on. And to their credit, they are working on those things and improving. They’ve had some success, but they’ve also had some rough nights.”

The Sharks have recalled two forwards from the AHL this season, Jeffrey Wiel and CJ Soos, for one game each. Defenseman Nick Cicek (11 games played) is the only rookie currently on the Sharks roster.

5. Joe Thornton hasn’t announced his retirement, but the best player in Sharks history has been on Sharks Ice and Tech CU Arena this season. He was on the ice in full gear a few times before the regular season started, but since then he’s been just hanging out with Grier and other members of San Jose’s front office.

“There will be a place for him (with the Sharks) when he decides he wants to,” Grier said. “I think he’s just enjoying being a dad, to be honest. He’s a hockey dad, walks (his son) across the river, with him on the bench and on the ice. He just had a weekend where it was just him and his daughter (Aylan). He enjoyed being a father. At the same time, he has been a good sounding board for me. I know he watches our games. He watches the Barracuda games. He’s someone I can ask his opinion on a lot of things.”

(Photo showing Timo Meyer, left, and Erik Karlsson celebrating a goal against the Kings on Dec. 17 by Gary A. Vazquez/USA Today)



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