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William Karlsson Deserves $6+ Million, But Vegas May Not Have It To Give Him

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the biggest stories of the offseason outside of Vegas is the stalemate between Mitch Marner and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Marner was the 11th most productive player in the entire league last season and his stock has soared. So it appears the two sides are headed for a messy negotiation this summer in Toronto.

To a smaller degree, the Golden Knights have their own Mitch Marner situation.

Like Marner, Golden Knights center William Karlsson is a restricted free agent that wants a long-term deal. Both sides seem to have an interest in getting a deal done to keep Karlsson in Vegas for the foreseeable future, but we’ve been down this path before and it ended in a one-year deal moments before arbitration.

The challenge is with where Karlsson fits in with the rest of the roster. He’s clearly not on Mark Stone’s ($9.5M) level, but is he on Max Pacioretty’s ($7M) or Paul Stastny’s ($6.5M)? Or maybe he should fit in closer to Reilly Smith ($5M), Jonathan Marchessault ($5M), or Alex Tuch ($4.75M).

Karlsson is a center though, and a damn good one at that. He finished in the top 10 in Selke voting in 2017-18 and won the Lady Byng. He backed it up with a down year offensively but carried the torch for the Golden Knights defensively until Stone arrived. So, he probably deserves more than most of the wingers on the team, but the Golden Knights may not have the money.

There in lies the problem, because like it or not, William Karlsson deserves at least $6 million, if not much more. Here’s why.

He’s a center

We’re all aware that centers make up some of the highest paid played players in the league. Currently, seven of the top ten highest paid NHL players are centers, and 19 of the top 50. Karlsson’s 2018-19 $5.25M cap hit was lower than 152 other NHL’ers, and 46 other centers. Numbers alone, Karlsson is a better player than half of the players paid higher.

Only a handful of centers scored 67 or more goals over the past two seasons and Karlsson was one of them. Most of those centers earn well above $6M a season. It’s the market price for two-way centers that log heavy minutes, handle faceoffs, averages 65+ points and receives Selke votes.


Some have devalued Karlsson after a “sub-par” 2018-19 campaign. Sure his scoring numbers dropped after his offensive explosion two seasons ago, but overall the Swede continued to produce for Vegas.

Karlsson ended up second on the Golden Knights in scoring with 56 points, second in goals (24), third in assists (32), and third in game-winning goals (5) in 2018-19. He and Marchessault were the only two players to play all 82 games. He led the team in faceoff wins (588), power play faceoff wins (61), shorthanded shots (17), average TOI for a forward (18:51), takeaways from a forward (73), and shifts per game for a forward (21.2).

Combined in Golden Knights history, Karlsson holds franchise records in goals (67), points (134), goals created (55.5), even-strength goals (47), and power play goals (15).

Quite simply, he’s been the best skater in Golden Knights history, and there’s really no room for argument.

He values his own value

Karlsson has already been slighted by two teams, why would he want to make it a third? Taking a team friendly deal essentially agrees he’s only at his best in Las Vegas. I’d have a hard time believing that. (Note: Ken 100% believes it) Nevertheless, the center always reiterates he wants to stay with the Golden Knights.

This is where I want to be. Ever since I got here I’ve been very happy… hopefully we’ll get it done rather soon but you never know. I just want what’s fair for both of us. -Karlsson on 4/25/19

Here’s another connection to Marner I found fitting with Karlsson’s value. This is an excerpt from Elliott Friedman’s 31 Thoughts podcast.

One thing about Marner, is you get the sense.. that you’re not considered important enough. There’s a guy there who was drafted fourth overall, people ripped that pick at the time, it was a great pick. He was sent back down to junior, and the Leafs were very blunt about why he was sent to junior. He didn’t get the full [Schedule B] bonuses in his first contract, which has continued to be a thing, even though it was a Lou Lamoriello kind of rule. And everyone around him is convinced that Mitch Marner is not respected the way he should be respected. -Friedman

In my opinion, the same lack of respect could be said for Karlsson. Especially, since Golden Knights management handed out millions last summer.

Karlsson’s reality

Bottom line, if the two parties can’t come to a team friendly deal then Vegas will likely offer another one-year deal and take their chances. That will put the puck in Karlsson’s corner and will be up to him to continue his future in Vegas or fetch his league value next summer. The lack of team commitment over his career might have Karlsson weary of signing a “buy-in” type contract.

Marner will sign for millions more than Karlsson, but the same headache applies for a cap concerned team like Vegas. In the center’s eyes, he’s done more than enough in Vegas to earn his dough. The question is, does the organization think he’s done enough?


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  1. Donald Rehrer Jr

    Pay him the damn 7 million, he’s worth every fkn penny of it, and more!

    • Nick

      Where does that $7m come from?

    • Mike G

      I agree. But where does that 7 mil come from?? I love Mark Stone but when he signed that contract the chances of signing Karlsson decreased tremendously. Unless they can trade some players, Eakin, Miller, Reaves, etc Karlsson is not getting 7 mil from Vegas …they don’t have it to give

      • ray K

        They need him. Nobody else one the team can skate with the elite centers in the league and as often as not outplay them. He became my all time favorite player and still. Moving Teemu down too #2 and Luc too #3. Neither of them could play in the defensive zone like Wild Bill. If they don’t treat him fair it will have a big negative impact.

      • james regdos

        Your absolutely right eakin, reaves and Miller need to go. Just get it done . And guess what ? We will get some good young players not yet ready.

  2. Erik

    Too bad they wasted the money on pacioretty. I bet he he doesn’t ever play all 82 games

  3. Ernest H Luke

    We are drawing many players interest for a two year team. many players have penned great deals. Give William his due, and his next season may be staggering, and he avoids injury. He has been the equal to Mark Stone, and one of the stalwarts of the franchise. A true star. With young players like Gusev, Zykov, and new players on defense, like Schuld, Whitecloud, and Hague, along with Belamare, Nosek, Eaken, and Haula, the combinations are endless. Unfortunately, the team is evolving, but the core of the team heritage is evolving into a true juggernaut, with the esprit-de-corp of the next man up.

  4. BL

    Hate to say I agree with Ken. Some of the value is driven by the system in Vegas.

    I have a gripe putting out that he’s won the most face-offs for the team. He’s also taken the most face-offs by a wide margin. He’s a sub-50% FO guy. He has NEVER been higher than 48% in his NHL career, and he is below 42% on FO for his career during the penalty kill.

    And even though his goals were down, his shooting percentage was still 5 points higher than the league average this year. Further, +/- is an overrated stat, but he was close to zero.

    So he’s a 50 point, 200 foot player who is great on the PK but terrible at FOs. Maybe the comparables are Brayden Schenn? TJ Oshie? They are somewhere between 5 and 6 million.

    • Mark

      Nobody ever talks about this and wish the writer of this article did and other fans, it’s really more important than everything else. Wild Bill doesn’t really need those mega contract that players on the Canadian teams have or Blue state teams have, like Boston, LA, San Jose or the New York teams have. You would be an idiot to choose to play for those teams. If he leaves and signs like James Neal of Ottawa, the tax dummy he was, you cough up nearly 60 of your money. New York, Boston, California teams, same thing, maybe more. Dallas, the Florida teams and Vegas are the teams to be on. No state income tax. Homes? Wild Bill, like everyone else, can have a super mansion here in Summerlin, near the practice facility. In Toronto or Boston, they have older, smaller crap housing, he would pay 4 or 5 times as much for 1/4 the home. Tiger Woods did this, he signed a 40 million dollar contact at 21 with Nike, he first purchased a home in Florida, left California, and pocketed $5.2 million extra. C’mon, we all need to make this case, Nevada is so much better of an option. Not even a close call.

  5. trades

    Eakin, Miller, Reaves and Holden are all possible trade candidates due to the cap constraints. Holden, benched during the playoffs, is a certain goner. And at least one of the other 3 will also be dealt.

    • BL

      Problem is finding a team to take Holden’s contract (2.2M cap hit next year). He might have to be bundled with another player to get a lesser return. Or give up a low pick to move the salary.

      Miller, Eakin and Reaves otherwise have value for trade. Hope Eakin and Reaves can stay, but have to find money somewhere. Like Miller, too, but there are 2-4 D-men in the minors ready to play in the NHL.

      McNabb – Theodore
      Schmidt – Whitecloud
      Hague – Schuldt?

      Not to mention Coghlan and Bischoff.

      • trades

        Whitecloud and Hague were a d pair all season in Chi, both about +30, so I see them as the 3rd pair in Vegas.
        I want Schmidt back with Mcnabb, the pairing that worked to get to a cup final, as Theo is NOT a shutdown type dman, but a great puck mover who should be on the 2nd pair.

  6. I have been one of the most vocal fans about the idea that Karlsson has been over-rated. I fought with Ken several times about the issue. I have watched a lot of hockey in my life, I basically have watched no other sport my entire life…(51 yrs old) and I just didn’t see an first line center in him. I always contended that the first season was a fluke based on extra ordinary circumstances. My mind changed with about 10 games left in this season for some reason and I don’t know why. I see a Kopitar type player in Karlsson. Anyone who doesn’t know, Kopitar has been one of, if not THE BEST, two way forwards in the league. Kopitar has never put up huge numbers but the guy is a rock. He plays in all situations. Karlsson is that type of player. He’s definitely not going to put up 50 goals a season but the guy might be the most valuable player on the team outside of Fleury. I hate to say it but he may be worth more than $7/mil a season. We are going to have severe cap problems. I don’t think he’ll get it this season, I believe we go to arbitration and sign another 1 year deal with him, but if the guy puts up another Selke type season he may be asking for the $9/mil a season territory for 20-21 and he’d be right and asking for it.

  7. Adrian k

    Wild Bill deserves a long term$5.5mm deal without question. There is debate whether $7mm is warranted. I think if h was offered 5.5 for 5 -7 years he would take it no doubt, and would essentially solidify keeping the first line together. I do think Bellamare is going to be a casualty since he is older and requires more money due to CBA. I dont see Reaves going anywhere because he is the muscle behind this team and the city really loves the guy. I hope we can trade Holden and keep Miller. We really need another Dman besides Shea who can shoot from the point. People forget Miller played all 82 games last year and was a stud. He may have regressed somewhat this year but he is still worth keeping.

    Moving Holden, and Bellamare, and not signing Pirri, and Engelland should allow us to keep WBK and Miller, as well as keep Carpenter for cheap. I do see Carpenter also being traded due to Gusev coming on board and already having Nosek. However, I wouldnt be surprised if Nosek got traded and Carpenter was kept.

    Gusev and Haula are going to be the lynchpins in deciding who stays and who goes, as they perform and contribute will have domino effect on at least 4-5 other players on the team

  8. Vgk4life

    Good thing we spent what we did on Shea Theodore. As we all know Shea is our top defensemen and is never caught being in the wrong place at the wrong time, sluffing off playing defense, or making asinine passes that end up on the other teams stick. Yep good thing we have spend money on guys like Shea.

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