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Karlsson saga drags on
Public comments hurt defenseman's desire to leave SJ
7/26/2023 - By Mike Lee

Heading in to August, the Sharks biggest roster question as training camp sits a few weeks away is if Erik Karlsson will be wearing a teal sweater. If you've been hiding under a rock this summer, you may have missed the fact that Sharks GM Mike Grier has made it be known that the Sharks intend to move Karlsson, preferably before the start of the season. That position was motivated by comments that the defensemen made regarding his disinterest in remaining in San Jose.

The Karlsson saga couldn't have played out any worse for San Jose, but what else is new. The Sharks have been tripping over themselves since Doug Wilson made the trade to acquire Karlsson. After years of missing out on the golden prize, Wilson felt he could get the Sharks over the hump by pairing Brent Burns with another offensive minded defenseman.

Problem is, neither can actually defend very well, which is apparently in important component in winning a Stanley Cup. Wilson then went on to ink Karlsson to a ludicrous contract that set the demise of the franchise in motion. Wilson chose Karlsson over Joe Pavelski, and with big money deals with Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl already on the books, the Sharks were headed to a salary cap implosion.

The contract that Karlsson inked prevents the Sharks from even landing the free agent talent that will help the Sharks escape the Western Conference basement, so now Karlsson has decided that he no longer wants to rot away on a non-competitive team.

So he did himself a disservice by publicly voicing his desire to flee San Jose. Grier has lost any leverage in actually getting true value in return for the defenseman. Karlsson indicated that he was in discussions with four teams in an attempt to help facilitate a trade in Toronto, Carolina, Pittsburgh and Seattle.

The Hurricanes and Maple Leafs have said publicly that they are out of the running as they won't meet Grier's asking price.

Moving Karlsson to Seattle seems like a long shot given that the Kraken are a division opponent. The defenseman has suggested that Pittsburgh is his preferred destination, but at what cost? There have been reports that the Sharks expect a minimum of two 1st round draft picks, but after that it gets cloudy. It would seem reasonable that Grier would want prospects added to the deal, but San Jose has so many holes that veteran players could easily be something to entice the Sharks into a deal.

The biggest barrier to a deal is contract dollars that San Jose would need to retain. Karlsson is still due $46 million over the next 4 years ($11.5milion per). Most teams are applying a concept novel to Wilson and the Sharks, in that they want to add talent to make them competitive while not breaking the bank.

It's been reported that some teams are looking to have San Jose retain as much as 50% of Karlsson's contract. A cap hit that high doesn't solve San Jose's issue, which is to create some cap leverage so that they can add quality free agents or acquire players to bolster their roster. It's more likely that Grier would be willing to retain up to 20% of his defenseman's contract, which in the grand scheme of things isn't a small number either.

Cap Friendly predicts that San Jose will have $5.46 million in cap space with Karlsson on the roster. If the Sharks were to take on 20% of Karlsson's contract, they would lose $2.3 million in cap space over the next 4 years, or $9.2 million over the next 4 seasons. That's no chump change.

Grier knew he was taking on a difficult job when he agreed to be the Sharks GM, but now he gets to prove if he's a savvy dealer, or a patsy for other teams to take advantage of. His haul for Brent Burns and then Timo Meier were likely less than he would have received if the Sharks were not in such dire cap straights. That is not as big an issue, and with several prospects lurking to make the jump to the NHL, he could simply choose to stand pat and hold on to Karlsson until the trade deadline.

The Sharks asking price last spring was an indication that perhaps Grier is toughening his stance on what he expects in return for the value he is providing any trade partner.

Karlsson didn't do himself any favors by expressing his desire to be traded in the press, so now he may have delayed his own fate. Regardless, the Sharks can't afford to settle on this deal. They already did that with Burns and Meier, so any more undervalued deals will continue to set the Sharks growth time table back.

Now we get to wait and see how Grier cements his own legacy, and defines the fate of his franchise.


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