Erik Karlsson’s value is its highest in years. He’s coming off a season that may send him home with two trophies in the next two weeks, as a finalist for the Norris and Ted Lindsay, despite the Sharks’ struggles.
After a trade didn’t come to fruition at the deadline, when San Jose moved their top forward Timo Meier, management may come to move on from the elite offensive defenseman.
A Karlsson trade won’t be without its challenges. There’s the challenge of finding a buyer for another four years, with a $11.5 million cap hit. There’s the control that the player has, with a no-movement clause that will undoubtedly limit who the Sharks can swing a deal with. And there likely is some concern from buyers, despite his incredible 2022-23, because of his age and injury history.
If managers are willing to get bold and creative, this summer may be the best time to trade for Karlsson.
Why the Sharks would trade him
A trade that sends Karlsson out of San Jose would have everything to do with the team’s conflicting timelines, not his caliber play. At 33 years old, the defenseman’s chances of winning the Stanley Cup are dwindling. If he sticks around in San Jose through the next four years until his contract expires, they all but plummet.
That’s because the Sharks are nowhere near contention, and won’t be anytime soon. The Timo Meier trade only furthered that back at the deadline. It doesn’t make sense for them to waste Karlsson’s time on a non-competitive team. At this point, he’s more valuable to them as a trade asset. Right now, San Jose is best served by moving out key pieces for high-end returns to help facilitate this process — especially when those players won’t be in their prime (or cost-effective) by the time the Sharks are a playoff team.
Why a team should want to add Karlsson
Karlsson’s monster season, with 25 goals and 101 points on a Sharks team bereft of talent, could win him the Norris Trophy this year. It proves he still has it in him to be one of the best defensemen on the planet.
Some have worries about his defensive game. It certainly isn’t perfect but he could probably focus on playing a stronger all-around game if he didn’t have the burden of carrying an entire team’s offense. Karlsson also spent most of the year paired with either Jaycob Megna or Mario Ferraro, meaning he was carrying a partner vastly inferior to the types of players that other elite defensemen get to play with. Karlsson’s dominant play in such a poor environment should inspire confidence that he can sustain his elite impact on a better team, with more help.