The Erik Karlsson watch: Where he could (and where he should) go
He said he has spoken to at least four teams.
The biggest NHL offseason move we are still waiting on is the inevitable Erik Karlsson trade out of San Jose.
It is no longer a matter of if he gets traded.
It is a matter of when, and where.
The Sharks are kickstarting a massive rebuild, Karlsson wants a chance to win the Stanley Cup before he retires, and those two things are not going to coexist. Karlsson is one of the best players of his era, and his name on the Stanley Cup is the last major box he needs to check off on his already Hall of Fame resume.
Karlsson told a Swedish newspaper this week that he has no interest in returning to San Jose and spoken directly to four teams about playing for them: Pittsburgh, Carolina, Toronto and Seattle.
Pittsburgh and Carolina being mentioned is not really a surprise given everything we have heard over the past few weeks. The Penguins and Hurricanes have always been rumored to be the most heavily involved in a potential Karlsson trade, but the Maple Leafs and Kraken are a little more eye opening.
All of those teams should be interested and willing to go to great lengths to get him on their roster. Karlsson proved this past season that when he is healthy he can still be a game-changing force from the blue line and one of the most impactful players in the game. He became the first defenseman in three decades to top the 100-point mark in a single season, took home his third Norris Trophy as the league’s top all-around defenseman, and would instantly improve any power play that he joins.
He is a first ballot Hall of Famer and still great right now.
The knock that people always have on Karlsson is that he is more of a fourth forward on the ice and could be a potential liability defensively due to the minus-26 mark he recorded this season. But those concerns are overblown and, honestly, not all that accurate. The driving factor behind Karlsson’s plus-minus this season was empty-net goals and the fact he was playing for a dreadful hockey team.
Keep these numbers in mind: When Karlsson was on the ice during 5-on-5 play this season the Sharks goal differential was even. They scored 94 goals. They allowed 94 goals. While that might not seem like a great number, you have to also consider that the Sharks were outscored by 53 goals(!) when Karlsson was not on the ice during 5-on-5 play. The fact that team, with that goaltending, was able to match its opponents when Karlsson was on the ice is a testament to how impactful he still is.
No matter where he ends up it is going to be a complicated trade, and could even require a third team to get involved to funnel some money through. Karlsson has one of the biggest contracts in the NHL and still counts $11.5 million against the cap for another four years. None of the four teams mentioned have that sort of salary cap space this offseason (or in future seasons). In fact, almost no team does other than teams that Karlsson would have absolutely zero interest in playing for at this stage of his career.
The Sharks are either going to need to retain salary, take salary back, or find another team to send Karlsson through to retain salary for them.
Or perhaps all three of those will need to happen together.
Then it all comes down to compensation going back to San Jose. And honestly, it might not be as much as you might think given the season Karlsson is coming off of.
Age, salary, and the fact Karlsson has full control of where he goes all play into that. Plus, even the best players never go for as much as you think they will in a trade.
So let’s get into each of these four potential options (and maybe a mystery team bonus option).
The argument for and against the Carolina Hurricanes
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