Now that the NHL Draft has been completed, teams are starting to look at finalizing their rosters for the new season, but San Jose Sharks is having to deal with an unexpected complication. Last season’s Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson has requested a trade to a play-off contender, sparking a race to acquire his services.
So far the rumor mill has been busy, claiming a return to Ottawa Senators could be on the cards, as well as linking him to Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Seattle Kraken and, in particular, Carolina Hurricanes.
While 2022-23 was a banner season for Karlsson, the Sharks had another disappointing campaign, finishing seventh in the Pacific Division, more than 40 points off the play-off places. Their last appearance there was 2018-19, Karlsson’s first season in San Jose after joining from Ottawa.
At the age of 33, the Swedish veteran clearly wants a shot at the Stanley Cup and doesn’t feel like it will come again with the Sharks, something general manager Mike Grier has accepted: “I think he would like the chance to have an opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup, and I understand that,” Grier said.
Award-winning defense play
Whoever does acquire Karlsson will be getting one of the most acclaimed defensemen of his era, with three James Norris Memorial Trophies on his mantelpiece. He was also named Best Defenseman at the 2014 Winter Olympics and has featured in the NHL First All-Star Team five times.
In 2022-23 as well as winning several awards for his defensive actions, he also scored career-highs in goals (25), points (101) and assists (76). However, acquiring Karlsson doesn’t come without its risks.
This past season was a huge success for the Swede but it was notably also the first time since joining the Sharks that he has been able to play the whole full slate. Injuries have affected his stay in San Jose, with the player averaging less than 60 games a season, having managed around 80 a season in Ottawa.
A calculated risk?
So whoever takes him on will need to be confident that this season has been a return to full health at last rather than just a blip in the latter stages of a successful career, increasingly blighted by injuries.
Certainly his 2022-23 numbers stack up and he set several records along the way too, including a Sharks record for points in the season for a defenseman as well as an NHL record for highest percentage of goal involvements (he scored or assisted 43.35% of San Jose’s goals). He was also the first defenseman since Brian Leetch in 1991-92 to record 100 points in a season.
But the question remains whether a 33-year-old can sustain these numbers or whether this past year has been an anomaly. For the Carolina Hurricanes, that gamble makes sense when they are looking to build on improved defensive performances as well as boosting their offensive play. If they can add Karlsson to their roster and replicate his successes this year, they give themselves – and him – a great shot at the Stanley Cup.
Written and distributed by Chat T Sports.