There’s no way to say it nicely. Erick Karlsson and the San Jose Sharks are in a slump. After losing longtime general manager Doug Wilson last year, in addition to the Evander Kane drama, the Sharks seem to be embroiled in more issues, this time concerning their on-ice performance.
If the Sharks are going to rebuild, they’ll need to move a huge piece in Erik Karlsson, the celebrated blue liner who takes up a big part of the club’s salary cap allocation.
According to CapFriendly, the 32-year old Swede is currently in the middle of an eight-year deal that he signed in 2019, with an AAV of $11.5 million.
Of course, it didn’t seem like a crazy idea at the time, as the offensive-minded Erik Karlsson is a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman. But things went quiet for a few years for the former first-rounder, as he struggled to find success with the Sharks.
This year is a different story. Karlsson seems to be back to his vintage abilities, and even recorded a hat trick on November 1 against the Anaheim Ducks, becoming the first player in San Jose Sharks history to score a three goals in a game. Because he’s 32, he also joins elite blue liners Nicklas Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara, Ed Jovanovski and Lubomir Visnovsky as the only NHL defensemen 32 and older to record a hat trick.
Essentially, Erik Karlsson just became prime trade bait, especially considering that the Sharks can retain up to 50% of his salary for themselves. He could be a valuable addition to many teams across the league this season, and has all the control as he will have to waive his no movement clause in order to go somewhere else. So, assuming he wants to, here are four Erik Karlsson possible trade destinations.
The Florida Panthers could use Erik Karlsson
NHL insiders Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman mused about the possibility of Karlsson heading to the sunshine state on their 32 Thoughts podcast. The Cats don’t have the cap space right now, but could free up some this summer when a huge chunk of Keith Yandle’s buyout comes off the books and Patric Hornqvist becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Losing Hornqvist frees up $5.3 million and $5,39 million comes as a result of the Yandle situation. Add the $1,18 million that comes off in the last year of Scott Darling’s buyout, and the club suddenly has nearly $12 million in cap space before moving any players in a deal for Erik Karlsson.
From an on-ice perspective, adding Karlsson to a roster that already includes Aaron Ekblad and a defensive forward like Aleksander Barkov gives Florida a whole new level of tenacity. Especially considering three Panthers blue liners in Radko Gudas, Marc Staal and Josh Mahura all face free agency this summer.
Erik Karlsson could go back to Ottawa
According to reports, the Sharks have already been in talks with the Ottawa Senators about sending Karlsson back to the place he started his career, and where he won both of Norris trophies. Ottawa is struggling right now and sits close to the bottom of the division, and could use a jolt of scoring–something Karlsson has proven he can provide.
Ottawa has about $5.4 million in cap space, though that’s a result of a long-term injury to Thomas Chabot that saw the blue liner go on IR. Still, it’s not a concern if San Jose retains 50% of Karlsson’s salary.
Adding Karlsson to a defense corps (and roster) that’s full of young, budding players could be a smart move in a rebuild for the Sens. He has a few good years left in his career and if he can put up points and mentor young players, the Sens could really benefit from Erik Karlsson’s presence on and off the ice.
Washington Capitals can trade for veteran in the offseason
Friedman and Marek also noted that, at the end of the Washington Capitals’ season, the club only has one signed defenseman in John Carlson, leaving them to fill five spots in one summer. The dream quickly became a vision: Erik Karlsson feeding Alex Ovechkin from the point to help the Caps captain smash Wayne Gretzky’s goal record.
Washington is littered with contracts that come due at the end of the season, and essentially have tons of flexibility the second NHL free agency opens to trade for Karlsson, though that deal would likely include prospects and picks, as Carlson, Evgeni Kuznetsov and Anthony Mantha are the only big names that are not Alex Ovechkin left on the roster.
The Anaheim Ducks could rebuild with Erik Karlsson
In short, the Ducks have tons of cap space, are underperforming, and are in the middle of a rebuild. Fans can see the idea of having a veteran, stay-at-home defenseman already crossed the management’s mind, hence the signing of John Klingberg. But, when that didn’t work in terms of offensive production, the team (and fans) went back to the drawing board.
Anaheim has tons of cap space, about $14 million, meaning they can move picks and prospects for Karlsson and don’t require that their division rivals, the San Jose Sharks, retain any salary (though would likely ask for at least some to stay in San Jose).
Again, Erik Karlsson is only 32, meaning he still has a few good years left in him and can simultaneously provide veteran guidance for Anaheim’s young bucks, like Jamie Drysdale. The Ducks could be looking to replace Josh Manson, who they dealt to Colorado at the deadline, in that respect. It could certainly jolt the offense and accelerate a rebuild.