Erik Karlsson recently won the James Norris Trophy by becoming the first NHL defenseman to score 100 points in over 30 years. Although the media and fans enjoyed watching the Swedish defender become only the sixth player in league history to accomplish the milestone, no one talked about his minus-26 rating or that he played on the league’s fourth-worst team, the San Jose Sharks. 

As a three-time Norris Winner, Karlsson is chasing a Stanley Cup title to complete his resume and further his legacy as one of this generation’s best defensemen. Unsurprisingly, shortly after accepting his award, his agent announced that the 33-year-old had requested a trade from the Sharks to a contender. 

Despite his recent request, the most significant hurdle preventing Karlsson from finding a new home is his hefty contract, valued at $11.5 million over the next four seasons. Ultimately, finding a trade partner is tough because his deal would consume a huge chunk of his new team’s cap space. However, in a world where franchises are in a win-now mode, someone will pull the trigger and make something happen. 

While the hockey community patiently waits for this trade news to break, here’s a breakdown of the pretenders and contenders to acquire the reigning Norris Trophy winner. 


Pittsburgh Penguins emerge as front runners for Erik Karlsson

After the 2022-23 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins witnessed the end of their 16-year playoff streak, the longest active run in North American sports. Even though they have a roster filled with future Hall of Famers like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang, it was shocking to see the team come up short in the season’s final days. 

As expected, the club cleaned house, replacing former general manager Ron Hextall and finding his replacement immediately in Kyle Dubas. Surprisingly, Dubas did not return to the Toronto Maple Leafs after five seasons and opted to sign with the Penguins instead. Ultimately, he wanted a new challenge in reconstructing a former championship team back into a winner. 

Dubas has only been on the job for a few weeks, but he’s already been busy retooling the roster. If he can swing a deal to acquire Karlsson, the Penguins would see their odds of winning another Stanley Cup significantly improve. Even though the team’s core is around 35 years old, adding someone of Karlsson’s caliber enhances the group’s skills while providing invaluable leadership. 

Although everything is just a rumor, don’t count out Dubas and the Penguins, as they remain one of the favorites to land Karlsson.