- The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired defenseman Erik Karlsson from the San Jose Sharks in a three team deal.
- San Jose retains $1.5 million USD of Karlsson’s $11.5 million USD annual salary through 2027.
- Karlsson is the reigning Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to try and win another Stanley Cup with Sidney Crosby and an aging roster. They made that abundantly clear by acquiring defenseman Erik Karlsson from the San Jose Sharks in a complex three way deal that also involved the Montreal Canadiens. San Jose picks up forward Mikael Granlund and Jan Rutta while Montreal acquires goaltender Casey DeSmith, defenseman Jeff Petry, prospect Nathan Legare and a 2025 second round draft pick. San Jose retains $1.5 million USD of Karlsson’s $11.5 million USD annual salary through 2027. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, picks up $1.56 million of Petry’s salary.
San Jose general manager Mike Grier had these comments after the trade’s consummation:
“It’s been kind of a long grind throughout not only the regular season but the summer to get this done. We’ve been going at it for a while trying to get this done with a few teams. Kyle’s (Pittsburgh GM/President of Hockey Operations Kyle Dubas) been pretty upfront and aggressive for the last couple months, but it’s been a little bit of a grind.”
Karlsson is the reigning Norris Trophy winner and the first to be traded immediately after winning the award since Doug Harvey in 1961. He’s the first defenseman to record more than 100 points in a season since Brian Leetch in 1991-1992. The Norris Trophy is purportedly given to the league’s top defenseman, but in the past decade or so it has morphed into a recognition of the NHL’s top offensive defenseman. The 33 year old Karlsson is almost certainly that, but he’s somewhere between a mediocre presence and a liability on the defensive end. It’s worth noting that he hasn’t appeared in the playoffs since 2019. He’ll join 36 year old Crosby, 36 year old Kris Letang and 37 year old Evgeni Malkin as the aging nucleus of a team watching their window get smaller by the day.
San Jose is in rebuilding mode and getting out from Karlsson’s massive contract was the top priority for the offseason. Grier emphasized the importance of financial flexibility:
“Having the ability to have some cap flexibility and financial flexibility was really important for us moving forward. Clearing that cap space and having the flexibility to get involved to make some moves down the line was one of the main priorities of this deal.”
We’ll look at the move’s impact on NHL futures betting in our next article.