When William Karlsson came over from Columbus in the expansion draft last year, nothing much was expected other than that Vegas was gaining another depth forward. Karlsson went on to score 43 goals, total 78 points, and shoot 23.4% in the 2017/18 season, something no one would have ever expected.
His surprising season had him be one of the top goal scorers in the league, behind Patrik Laine and Alex Ovechkin, some pretty good snipers to be alongside. The fact that Karlsson had only scored a career total of 18 goals in 183 games before scoring 43 in 82 games this year is pretty remarkable. It also means that with these stats, general manager George McPhee knows Karlsson is going to want an upgrade from the $1 million dollar salary he was making this season.
It’s worth noting that Karlsson is an RFA, and the question is, will Vegas lock him up to a long term deal? Or will it be a bridge deal? There are many opinions on this, and personally, Karlsson should be given a short-term contract.
Karlsson had an increased role this season as 1st line center, with his linemates Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault having fantastic years as well, after playing most of his career as a depth center. With Columbus last year, Karlsson was playing 3rd line minutes (only averaging 13:23 minutes/game) and totaled 6 only goals. His previous career high in goals before 43 this year was the 9 he scored in the 2015/16 season with Columbus.
If Karlsson say signs a 2–3 year deal, Vegas will be able to accurately value him better for a future long-term deal by seeing his production either rise or fall in those few seasons. It’s a very risky decision with Karlsson, because his story is so unique and different from other NHL players, and his increased role lead to increased production, so it can be easier to overpay him with a long-term contract right now.