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July 19, 2019

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Golden Knights’ Karlsson couldn’t see playing anywhere else

NHL Awards

John Locher / AP

Vegas Golden Knights’ William Karlsson poses on the red carpet before the NHL Awards, Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Las Vegas.

There was a William Karlsson play two years ago that caught Golden Knights general manager George McPhee’s eye. It was March 31, 2018, the between-the-legs-goal game against the San Jose Sharks that clinched the Pacific Division.

That’s not the play McPhee was talking about though.

On Karlsson’s next shift, he chased an attacking Shark all the way down the ice and lifted his stick as a pass was coming to prevent a scoring chance.

It’s those kinds of plays that get McPhee excited. Everyone loves the goals, but part of the reason Karlsson signed an eight-year, $47.2 million contract Monday was that he’s just as good in front of his own goalie as he is facing down the opposition’s.

“When you have those kinds of players, you can win a lot of games, because they play the game right and they play both ends of the rink,” McPhee said. “We’ve got a guy that’s excellent at both ends of the rink and we want to keep him.”

Karlsson, who had 43 goals that first season, 24 last season and nine more across two playoff runs, is beloved by the fans. And he wanted everyone to know today the feeling is mutual.

“I love to live in Las Vegas,” Karlsson said. “Everything that has happened here in these two years — not just for me but just to see how the city has embraced us and really showed us love — that makes it a whole lot easier to make a decision like this to stay.”

Karlsson came at a team-friendly price of $5.9 million a year against the cap. Compare that with the $6 million Brock Nelson got from the Islanders for six years and the $7.1 million Kevin Hayes got from the Flyers for seven, and Karlsson’s contract looks like a downright steal.

The differences between Karlsson’s contract and the contracts of Nelson and Hayes is that Karlsson was a restricted free agent, giving him less bargaining power. Maybe he could have had a higher paycheck had he waited until next summer, but he had no interest in finding out.

“I never really thought about it, and when I did, I couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else,” Karlsson said. “It was an easy decision.”

Still, had Karlsson signed another one-year deal and gained unrestricted free agency next summer, it’s not hard to picture him topping Hayes in per-year value. That’s where Nevada’s lack of a state income tax comes into play.

According to CapFriendly’s tax estimator, Karlsson will take home $3,752,012 in Nevada. Had he signed the same contract in New York, he would have lost $726,836 of that, and in Pennsylvania, he would have lost $410,681. In Canada, it would be nearly $1 million less.

Even Arizona, the NHL state with the lowest state income taxes, he would forfeit about $267,000.

“Our situation in Vegas is really attractive to a lot of players,” McPhee said. “The tax implications and the cost of living here matters, and the players are really savvy and understand what they’d have to make somewhere else to net what they take home here.”

Karlsson said the eight years were important to him. Mark Stone is the only other Golden Knight to get eight years.

McPhee said he was less worried about a decline in Karlsson’s performance over time than other players because of his style of play. Even if he isn’t a goal-scoring threat at age 34, he can still be a defensively sound forward, McPhee said.

McPhee nuggets

• McPhee said he tendered qualifying offers to all the team’s restricted free agents, retaining the players’ rights. They are Tomas Nosek, Malcolm Subban, Jimmy Schuldt, Nikita Gusez, Alex Gallant, Tobias Lindberg, Jake Bischoff and Zachary Fucale.

• McPhee acknowledged the team’s cap situation and said to expect trades to come. “We’re going to have to make a few moves,” he said. “We have planned for that.”

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