Erik Karlsson just had a career season and, for a player who already had two Norris trophies, that’s saying something.
This year, Karlsson became the first NHL defenceman in over 30 years to post 100 points in a single season. On Monday night, at the league’s awards ceremony in Nashville, he made it a Norris Trophy hat trick as the league’s top defenceman for 2022-23, solidifying his status as a future Hall of Famer.
It’s now been five years since the Senators began their rebuild and traded Karlsson to San Jose in a blockbuster deal that landed them, among others, Josh Norris and Tim Stutzle.
Now the Sharks are in rebuild mode too and Karlsson is expected to be traded again sometime this summer. On Sunday in Nashville, where the NHL Draft (June 28-29) is being held, Karlsson made headlines when asked about his future.
With a no movement clause, the 33-year-old has final say on where he’s traded and on Sunday, he indicated to Swedish media in Nashville that he’s open to being traded back to Ottawa.
“I want an opportunity to win,” Karlsson told SanJoseHockeyNow.com. ”If that opportunity is not in San Jose right now, within my timeline, that’s just the unfortunate part of business. That’s not to say that I don’t like it there, that they don’t want me there, or that we don’t want this to work.
“That’s just the way it is. It makes sense for both parties.”
Karlsson’s $11.5 million per season certainly doesn’t fit with San Jose’s rebuild, but it’s not an easy fit for any NHL team – not without getting super creative. It’s a big ask to bring in a player who will account for over 13 percent of the team’s salary cap space while giving up a bunch of assets in the process.
In a way, the Sharks are now angling to get back the type of assets they gave up to acquire Karlsson in the first place.
After Ottawa traded Karlsson in 2018, he immediately helped the Sharks get to the 2019 Western Conference Final, where they lost to the St. Louis Blues, the eventual Cup champs. San Jose went into a Shark tailspin after that, missing the playoffs in each of the past four years. The Sens have missed for the last six years but Norris and Stutzle are now star centers in the league. If they can both stay healthy, both are capable of pushing past 40 goals this coming season.
Along with a chance to win, Karlsson also has a personal interest in a possible return to the Capital. Just like Claude Giroux last summer, Karlsson likes it here, has a house here, and his wife is from Ottawa so there’s no shortage of family they’d like to see more often than they do on the West coast.
Woulda Karlsson deal work for the Senators? Could they make it work? Would it even be of interest to GM Pierre Dorion, the same man who traded him away five years ago?
That’s the $11.5 million question.