Rumour Report: New Erik Karlsson frontrunners emerge

The Erik Karlsson sweepstakes will take a major turn in the coming days.

Check out for everything hockey workouts!

Things are going down to the wire with just weeks to go before the free agent interview period opens in late June.

The fact that Karlsson just had groin surgery and will spend much of the summer rehabbing doesn't seem to have slowed the barrage of interest in the pending UFA defensemen.

Many were left surprised that the presumed frontrunners Tampa Bay and Vegas were beaten out by the Sharks, who paid a seemingly minor trade price for him last summer. With Karlsson now potentially available to all 31 teams for nothing more than money, that interest is expected to go through the roof.

Maybe they knew he was bound to test free agency in 2019. Tampa Bay figures to be in the mix, as well as the Sharks. But it's long been believed that Karlsson would prefer to return to the Eastern conference and be closer to his home in Ottawa. That does not, apparently, include the Maple Leafs or Sabres.

There were rumblings that Karlsson was initially ambivalent about the move to San Jose, and he wasn't exactly a perfect fit for a team that already had an elite puckmover in Brent Burns. Karlsson is more likely than not to explore free agency, but the Sharks will continue to circle back. They're the only team that can offer Karlsson 8 years, and could try to do a sign-and-trade with another team if they can't get him to stay.

There is some belief that Karlsson would even entertain an offer from Ottawa themselves. But it's hard to see a rebuilding team like the Senators being in the mix for Karlsson, who is entering the back 9 of his career and expects to be on a team that wins right now. Owner Eugene Melnyk has long suggested discomfort in paying big money for one player - especially on a team that doesn't come close to the salary cap.

The injuries in recent years have caused some concern for teams - many expected Karlsson to get Drew Doughty money, but that seems unlikely at this point.

Karlsson's best fits and preferred destinations, it would appear, are Tampa Bay, New York or Montreal.

Karlsson would fit in nicely on a Islanders team that needs a true powerplay quarterback, but it's the Rangers who appear to have the upper hand if Karlsson chooses New York.

Vegas, once considered a serious frotrunner, is a longshot at this point. They have enough salary to deal with internally this summer.

Some wonder if the Capitals or Penguins might get back into the mix as well.

Then there's always the chance of a darkhorse team. Remember, the Sharks were barely mentioned as a contender for Karlsson last summer. Had they not swung and missed on John Tavares, they likely wouldn't have even made an offer.

Would a team like the Avalanche, Devils, Bruins or Flyers enter the mix? What about the Oilers, who would surely return to relevancy with Karlsson's puck-moving abilities?

More teams are expected to emerge in the coming days.

The Karlsson camp is soon expected to inform the Sharks of his intentions moving forward. With just a couple of weeks to go before the free agency interview period opens up, the pressure is on.

Karlsson headlines a star-studded NHL Rumour Board that also includes the likes of Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Taylor Hall. Expect things to continue heating up in the next few weeks.

Follow NHL Rumour Report on Facebook and Twitter for the latest rumour updates!

Trending Rumours