Why a trade with Erik Karlsson is a big challenge for the San Jose Sharks

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With less than two months to go until the March 3 NHL trade deadline, we’re bringing you a deadline-focused story every day atDaily face-to-face.

Today we’re going to focus on San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson, who was 10th on our latest Trade Targets chart last week.

2023 trading deadline countdown: 50 days

Defenseman, San Jose Sharks
Shots: right
Age: 32 years old
Height: 6’0″ | Weight: 190 lbs.
Cap Hit: $11.5 million AAV
Duration: 4 seasons remaining
Commercial clauses: complete « no-trade » clauses, complete « no-move » clauses
Stats: 23 GP, 13 goals, 43 assists, 56 points, 25:15 avg YOU
Career: 14th season (nine at Ottawa), 881 GP, 166 goals, 716 points, 25:28 avg YOU

Archetype and ideal role

Puck Mover, Top Pair

Karlsson was ranked 16th among mobile puck defensemen in Daily face-to-face Pre-Season Archetype Ranking Series. Ideally, Karlsson plays a star offensive role both at equal strength and on the power play, and he’s paired with a dependable defender who stays at home and is an above-average defender.

Screening report

After two Norris trophies and 14 seasons, Karlsson and his game have no secrets. Karlsson is one of the NHL’s elite offensive defensemen of all time. Since joining the Sharks in 2018, he ranks 13th among defensemen in total points (198) and 10th in points per 60 minutes (1.93). Perhaps most impressively, only 66 of Karlsson’s 198 points in that span have come on the power play, meaning the majority of his damage has been inflicted at even strength.

There are several reasons why Karlsson is part of the elite. His sense of offensive hockey is outstanding. He not only has the ability to recognize dangerous space moving through the zone, but he can get there to be a legitimate option without the puck. With the puck, he can create space because he’s so elusive. His lateral mobility lures defenders into bad positions, where he can sneak in and make himself and his teammates look better.

His hands, coupled with his sense and timing, allow him to quickly change direction with the puck. They also contribute to his quick, hard, and accurate shot – making him a threat from a distance. He’s also deceptive, using his shot as a threat to open up lanes to deal out next.

Although he suffered major Achilles tendon and ankle injuries, he remains an elite skater who can easily carry the puck. According to Stathletes, Karlsson was the No. 1 player last season in successful carry zone outings last season.

The question the teams want to answer: What’s behind Karlsson’s impressive resurgence this season?

With 56 points in the first half of this season, Karlsson has already beaten his best point total in a Sharks uniform by a wide margin. The simplest answer is more Brent Burns. Karlsson has oxygen to breathe. When Burns was in San Jose, he played the lion’s share of his minutes 5-on-5 and on the power play with top San Jose players, including Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier and Logan Couture.

This season, with Burns at Carolina, Karlsson is getting more opportunities with the Sharks’ top players and on the first unit of the power play, hence the increased production. His total ice time increased by almost two minutes per game, returning to the level of more than 25 minutes he was accustomed to in Ottawa. Second, health was an important factor. Prior to this year, Karlsson had missed 79 games in four seasons due to injury. He hasn’t missed a game this season.

Buyer Beware

After two Norris Trophies and 14 seasons, there are also no secrets about Karlsson’s shortcomings in the game. He’s a generally mediocre defender, largely because he’s so involved in attack. It takes a high-risk approach on the back-end. He’s a classic rover, almost a fourth striker on the ice. When defending the run, Karlsson has excellent hand-eye coordination and regularly picks pucks and passes in the air. The problem is that he doesn’t always defend the race, but skates to come back.

In the defensive zone, his game can be described as « permissive ». He is passive in his willingness to attack and cut off the attack, and he does not eagerly block shots, meaning the opponent can generate dangerous glares around him. That said, his actual on-ice results amount to “attack defense” because he has so much of the puck. He manages to tip the game in the right direction. With Karlsson on the ice at 5-5 this season, the Sharks hold a 529-418 advantage in scoring odds, according to Natural Stat Trick.

With his elite offensive talent, teams are easily able to ignore bad for good. But more worrying than his defense is his contract. Karlsson’s contract does not expire until 2027, just after his 37th birthday.

Given the restrictive and unforgiving nature of the salary cap, $11.5 million is a huge salary cap for an elite defender in his prime, let alone a 32-year-old player enjoying a comeback season with a Significant injury history. Karlsson also holds all the cards with a full ‘no trade’ veto, but just this week he expressed his desire to win – and given that the Sharks are in the midst of a full-scale rebuild, he knows. that will not be the case. to be in San Jose.

It’s important to keep in mind that with $11 million owed to Karlsson in signing bonuses over the last two seasons of his contract, this is essentially ‘proof of redemption’. This signing bonus money makes for a ballooning salary cap that will be hard for any team to swallow when needed. This means that not only if Karlsson is acquired will he remain in control of his future destination, but also that if he underperforms it will be increasingly difficult to sever ties with him.

Potential compatibilities

This week, the San Jose Sharks reportedly asked for three first-round picks in exchange for Karlsson, with the Sharks willing to keep 18% of his contract. That would drop Karlsson to a salary cap of around $9.4 million.

  • Ottawa Senators: Welcome home, Karl. Karlsson still spends part of his summers in Ottawa and he could come back on the other side of a rebuild with an emerging Senators team and form a formidable top four with Thomas Chabot, Jake Sanderson and Artem Zub. The Sens fanbase would explode with excitement. One of the hurdles is the cost of acquisition: it doesn’t seem like the Senators would be willing to trade that kind of interim capital. Another is needed as Karlsson is perhaps a little redundant, even if he is better than Chabot. Then there’s the potential salary cap issue. How many players over $8 million can the Senators afford? Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Tim Stutzle are already there. What happens to Alex DeBrincat and his next contract? Accounting becomes difficult.
  • There are potential hurdles in just about every other market you could imagine. Is the Seattle Kraken to be so aggressive? How about the Columbus Blue Jackets after their dear summer? do it Winnipeg Jets need Karlsson with the production of Josh Morrissey? Is the Toronto Maple Leafs is he right for him not just this season, but beyond as their expensive futures need to be renewed? What about the Washington Capitals, where John Carlson is already running his power play? None of them are really perfect, and after connecting all these dots, the next question is: would Karlsson want to go to any of these places?

Size the market

Other defenders available: LD Jakob Chychrun (Arizona), RD John Klingberg (Anaheim), LD Shayne Gostisbehere (Arizona).

Defenders potentially available: LD Cam Fowler (Anaheim), RD Matt Dumba (Minnesota).

Free agents pending this summer: RD Damon Severson (New Jersey), Klingberg, Gostisbehere.

Comparable Trade Returns

Unprecedented. There are no comparable trade returns as a trade like this has never happened in NHL history. None of the 14 salary-era players with an eight-figure cap has ever been traded, let alone one with more than four years remaining on his contract.


With Karlsson having the year of revival few could have predicted, it’s easy to see why San Jose would want to be aggressive in trying to break free from the shackles of his $92 million contract. There is no doubt that the Karlsson player can help a team. But as the highest-paid defenseman in the NHL, his contract requires him to be the best all-around defenseman – yet he’s not that, and at 32, Father Time is undefeated and it’s fair to assume. that a decline is in order. . Whether Karlsson should move at all will depend on a mix of San Jose’s willingness to fold, a team’s need for a breakout producer, and Karlsson’s own willingness to go. Its trade market is incredibly difficult to gauge, making it more unlikely than likely that it will be traded before the deadline.


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