• By: Dave Gross

Karlsson’s return trip anything but joyous

Photo courtesy NHLI via Getty Images

I think for all the parties involved, the day they were looking most forward to was Sunday.

Not Saturday.

Be it Erik Karlsson or Pierre Dorion or Chris Tierney or Pete DeBoer or Guy Boucher, to a man, getting this circus out of town and over and done with was the ideal. Certainly, not the endless build-up leading to the return of the Ottawa Senators former captain (and – yep – best player in franchise history).

The San Jose Sharks and Senators certainly played Saturday afternoon like they couldn’t wait for Sunday.

At least in a first period that can only be described as ‘sleepy.’ It was almost like: “If we get through this without anyone noticing there is actually a game going on, that’d be a good thing.”

The teams shook off the cobwebs, rubbed the sleep out of their eyes and cranked it up a few levels, making the rest of the matinee worth watching.

Still, you could practically feel the sense of awkwardness and discomfort as the Karlsson Show ramped up a full day before when Erik held court with the local media after a Sharks’ practice at the University of Ottawa.

Karlsson, known for his chill and confident manner was neither for the five- to 10-minute news conference.

Boy, he sounded and looked shaky.

He even made mention that he pays attention to what happens in and around Ottawa. That included a quip where he admitted reading social media generated by the local scribes.

That’s unsettling.

Understandably after all the chatter, back-talk and fan disappointment leading up to his trade earlier in the fall, Karlsson was not his usual self-assured and composed self.

To the game itself?

Karlsson was noticeable but in no way did he dominate the flow like he did here in the capital for the better part of his nine-year stay.

To that end, you’re left wondering nearly 30 games into the season, if Karlsson is a good fit on the California coast. Also to that end, you’re left wondering what kind of team this Sharks bunch is?

Mind you I’ve only seen a fistful of their games this year but judging from the smallish sample size this looks like a discombobulated hockey team.

Not sure if this collection can turn around a disappointing year and make its ‘expected’ run at a Stanley Cup.

And if things continue to stagnate through the season, does ‘another’ Karlsson trade rear up around the trade deadline? Erik is a free agent next summer.

Now that would put not only Karlsson but the entire Sharks organization in shaky and uncertain territory.

News, notes and notions: Got to say I am with former NHL GM Brian Burke on this one: The Leafs are going to pay their sixth-best player something in the neighbourhood of $7 million a season on a six-year term? William Nylander is overpaid. Bottom line. Best case scenario from this vantage point would have been trading Nylander for some sort of defensive help. Toronto is clearly all-in this season but with pending contracts coming up for Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner, they’d better get it done this year . . . Going to the CapFriendly.com web site makes for interesting reading. As in, did you know Ottawa is on the hook this season and next to pay Clarke MacArthur $4.65 million per? MacArthur is likely done as a player. Did you also know the Senators have retained $1.75 million for the next three seasons on Dion Phaneuf's salary? . . . The Leafs are even stranger. Phil Kessel gets $1.2 million of his take-home for the next four seasons from the Buds. Meantime, Nathan Horton – who hasn't played for five full seasons – is raking in $5.3 million through 2019-20 . . . Expansion to Seattle is on the docket next week when the NHL board of governor's convene for December meetings. This is all but rubber-stamped. Seattle is expected to hit the ice for the 2020-21 season. Oh yeah, 'hi Quebec,' says Gary Bettman. And this: “Seattle is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country,” Bettman said to NHL.com. “It gives us a geographic balance. It creates a nice geographic rivalry with (the) Vancouver (Canucks). I know Vancouver is particularly excited about the possibility."

Senators week ahead:

Tuesday, Dec. 4: Ottawa at Montreal (7:30 pm)

Thursday, Dec. 6: Montreal at Ottawa (7:30 pm)

Saturday, Dec. 8: Pittsburgh at Ottawa (7 pm)

Sunday, Dec. 9: Boston at Ottawa (5 pm)