Could Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns be on the trade block?
Elliotte Friedman reported on Sportsnet yesterday that the San Jose Sharks had “preliminary trade talks” centered around Karlsson early in the season. Also, they’re open to breaking up the Karlsson-Burns defensive duo if the right offer comes along.
“It does look like there were some preliminary, very preliminary, trade talks this year, involving defenseman Erik Karlsson and a couple of teams,” Friedman said. “I don’t necessarily think that’s going to go anywhere.”
After back-to-back sub-standard seasons, Karlsson’s quick start to the 2021-22 campaign – 26 points in 33 games – reminded the hockey world that he’s still a phenomenal talent. But he’s also 31, has had trouble staying healthy over the last half-decade, and has five seasons left on an eight-year, $92 million dollar agreement signed in Jun. 2019.
So it’s not a surprise that these trade talks were “very preliminary” – in a barely-rising cap world, the San Jose Sharks would almost certainly have to retain a significant portion of Karlsson’s $11.5 million AAV to move him.
Friedman continued: “What I do think it says is the Sharks recognize having two elite, Norris Trophy-winning right-shot defensemen hasn’t always mixed as well, meshed as well, as the team would’ve hoped.”
That’s one way of looking at it.
But I don’t think how Burns and Karlsson duplicate each other is the reason why the San Jose Sharks are going on three seasons and running out of the playoffs. Who was complaining about the duo in 2018-19, when Burns was a Norris finalist and Karlsson was arguably the best player in the world in a two-month mid-season stretch that year? When Burns and a clearly-hampered Karlsson led the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals?
Here’s how I look at it: Both aging rearguards declined after that year, though they’re both still impact defensemen. And the team around them – Joe Pavelski left, Evander Kane’s contract got terminated, Joe Thornton hit the wall, and no young Sharks, save Timo Meier, have really emerged to take their places – went south.
“The Sharks have made it clear in their GM search that they are still going to contend, but in a tight cap world, this might be a luxury they have to explore [breaking up],” Friedman said. “Burns, in particular, has less term on his contract than Karlsson. They’re both great players. But I think if the opportunity comes to them where they get something they like, that is something that everyone is going to have to watch with San Jose and the right side of their D.”
Burns has three years left on an eight-year, $64 million dollar pact inked in Nov. 2016. Burns is durable – he hasn’t missed a game since 2014 – and he’s still a top-20 or so blueliner. But he’s also 37.
“One source suggested recently that [Burns] might be ready to move on, which would make sense in that he’s getting up there in age and still hasn’t won a Stanley Cup.”
That was what The Athletic reported – last May.
Does another year older and another season out of the playoffs make Burns want to stay in San Jose more?
San Jose Hockey Now asked Burns directly about a week ago if he’d be interested in going elsewhere to chase the Cup – and his answer was far from a resounding no.
Complicating the matter too: Karlsson has a full No Movement Clause in his contract, while Burns has a three-team trade list (i.e. three teams that the Sharks can trade him to). Essentially, you can trade Karlsson or Burns (beyond his three-team trade list), but they would have to approve.
But who’s making a hockey deal for Burns or Karlsson? Who’s going to give a team that’s looking to win “something they like” for either aging, expensive defenseman?
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