Does Erik Karlsson prefer to go to the Pittsburgh Penguins?
The “Penguins, who have had multiple people speak with Erik Karlsson, are confident they’re his preferred destination,” the Athletic’s Rob Rossi wrote on Threads. “They have multiple plans for how to acquire him if/when Sharks decide to make a move.”
At the moment, the Carolina Hurricanes are reportedly the only other team in the Karlsson derby.
Frank Seravalli, however, told Sportsnet 590 Toronto yesterday, “My understanding is there’s been a number of teams that have spoken to Erik Karlsson directly.”
He didn’t mention any other specific teams besides the Canes.
The San Jose Sharks star, who has four more years left in his contract at $11.5 million AAV, is also armed with a No-Movement Clause. But this doesn’t mean that Pittsburgh is the only place where he’ll go.
The reigning Norris Trophy winner said as much at the NHL Awards in late June.
“I’m very open-minded. I don’t have a preferred destination, or I think this team is the best team. There’s so many teams right now,” Karlsson said. “Like you just have to make the playoffs and you have a chance to win.”
Of course, things could’ve changed since then. And while it doesn’t seem like Karlsson is trying to “force” his way onto the Pens, if all things are equal, let’s say the Sharks have two competitive trade offers from Pittsburgh and Carolina, maybe the star defenseman opts to play with Sidney Crosby and company.
“Doesn’t mean [Karlsson] to [Pittsburgh] is a lock,” Rossi added. “But Penguins like their positioning.”
This is just more smoke connecting Karlsson to the Pens.
On Jul. 1, Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now reported that the San Jose Sharks and Penguins were “very close on Erik Karlsson.”
“The Penguins were extremely close to landing Karlsson on July 1,” Josh Yohe of The Athletic followed up yesterday. “A deal was close to being completed that morning, which would have rocked the hockey world.”
Whatever happened, by the afternoon of Jul. 1, that deal was dead.
A source indicated to San Jose Hockey Now then, “It’s not close.”
Right now, I'm hearing a Karlsson trade isn't that close, but of course, that could change in a second
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) July 1, 2023
Here we are, 12 days later, Karlsson still in the wind.
And if Seravalli is right, he might be for a while yet.
“I’m still not convinced that as much as Erik Karlsson wants a trade and the Sharks would like to move him, that it will ultimately come to pass,” the insider said. “The reason for that, the Sharks are still asking for a haul. And with his contract, even at 20 percent retained, at $9.3, 9.5 million [AAV] per year. Teams have to carve that out of their cap at this point to make something like that work. That’s an exercise in and of itself.”
GM Mike Grier has said that San Jose are open to increasing their retention amount, but it’s not clear how much. And Elliotte Friedman – and Grier himself – have suggested that Sharks owner Hasso Plattner is more involved than usual in this deal, seeing that it’s his money that will pay Karlsson to play for another team.
“It’s a lot of money,” Grier acknowledged before the Draft. “At the end of the day, it’s his money, right?”
That’s understandable, but it’s also understandable that teams aren’t excited to add even a 101 point-scoring defenseman at $9 million-plus.
“When you look at then adding on pieces [for] a player who’s approaching his mid-30’s and has significant injury history – teams just aren’t willing to pay it,” Seravalli stated.
“So unless the Sharks are willing to come around and take less, and I believe that’s essentially where the Penguins are, it’s like hey we don’t even have anything to trade you. We have nothing. We have no picks, prospects, we have nothing,” he said. “So if you want to give him to us, we’ll take him on for 9.5 million bucks. Short of that, I guess we’ll pick up the conversation later. That could be in August, it could be whenever.”
Of course, the alternative is that the Sharks retain more to get more. Plattner and Grier are aware of that, according to Friedman.
“The more they retain, the better the deal has to be,” Friedman noted.
I spoke with multiple league sources about reasonable trades with the Penguins and Hurricanes if Plattner and Grier were willing to retain up to 40 percent. Or, the Sharks can involve a third team to take on some of the retention.
But Seravalli is pessimistic: “I have real doubts as to whether that’s gonna change. And I know teams do as well.”
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