As we make our way through the offseason, there still is a ton of questions to be answered. There are big-name free agents (Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrick Kane, Matt Dumba) that have yet to find a home for next season. There are also star players that could/will be traded at some point before October (Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson, Mark Scheifele). However, there is one star in particular that a decision has to be made on relatively soon, San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson. One contending team that could acquire the services of the reigning Norris Trophy is the Seattle Kraken. Let’s dive in and see why the Pacific Division team should be in play.
Why the Kraken Should Acquire Erik Karlsson
Going into the 2023-24 season, the Seattle Kraken are poised to make a long run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They are coming off a tremendous season in which they made the postseason for the first time, knocked off the defending champion Colorado Avalanche in the first round and nearly advanced to the Western Conference Final in a hard-fought seven-game series loss in the second round to the Dallas Stars. They have a solid group of veterans like Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz. In addition, their pool of talented youth is impressive with the likes of 2023 Calder Trophy winner Matty Beniers, Andre Burakovsky, Eeli Tolvanen and Shane Wright waiting in the wings. Seattle has a roster that is capable of doing damage in the now and in the future.
While the defensive core has been good, adding a star in Karlsson would elevate the backend a ton. As mentioned before, Karlsson is coming off winning the Norris Trophy after an unreal season in San Jose. He finished the 2022-23 season with 25 goals, 76 assists for a whopping 101 points. He is the quarterback of any team’s power play, has the tremendous passing ability and would certainly upgrade the defense overall. Karlsson immediately becomes a true number-one guy on the backend, something that Seattle definitely should want and need.
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The Kraken are looking to become even more formidable, and adding the superstar defenseman would do just that. It’s not just the stats and talent that the 33-year-old brings, he also provides good qualities off the ice. He has a ton of experience in the playoffs, which is definitely needed for still young Kraken team. In addition to that, Karlsson has a history of true leadership. He was the captain of the Ottawa Senators from 2014-18 and has been an alternate captain with the San Jose Sharks since 2019-20. The players in the locker room would gravitate and respect someone with the stature that Karlsson has. He is certainly a great fit for the Seattle-based team. Now, the question becomes how can Seattle pull off a trade of this magnitude.
How Can the Kraken Acquire Erik Karlsson?
The easy part is figuring out if there is a fit for EK65 in Seattle, and there is. The hard part is how can the Kraken make this acquisition a reality. The first step is figuring out whether or not they can take on the entirety of Karlsson’s contract. The Landsbro, Sweden native is going into the fifth year of his 8-year, $92 million deal he signed with the Sharks back in 2019-20. He carries a cap hit of $11.5 million per year. The Kraken currently have just over $9 million in cap space. While they will have the space to take on his deal in full over the next several seasons, you have to keep in mind a few factors.
The first factor is making sure you either can make room by moving contracts or convincing San Jose to retain 50% of Karlsson’s contract. That will also cost the Kraken more in assets, which Seattle can certainly provide. The other factor is making sure you have a healthy enough cap to not only re-sign the likes of Beniers, Tolvanen and others, as well as space to make other moves to improve the team. If the Kraken can turn Karlsson from a $11.5 million average annual value (AAV) roster player to a $5.75 million AAV roster player, then it’s a massive win for them. 30% retained would make Karlsson’s cap hit at just over $8 million per year, which could also be reasonable, though having a half-retained salary would be ideal.
Now let’s look at what the Kraken would have to give up for them to make it worth the Sharks’ wild. We’ll start with draft picks. It’s clear that San Jose is trying to rebuild their roster through the draft and adding more picks to general manager Mike Grier’s arsenal. The Kraken has all but two of their picks for the next three years. I would expect them to have to give up, at least one or two firsts as a start, as well as another pick/s in the later rounds.
The next part is what to give up in terms of current and prospect players. In terms of current players, it may be a bit tricky. I would expect San Jose to want a roster player or two that can make an impact right away. I would say probably Vince Dunn and or Alex Wennberg fit that mold. In terms of prospects, Seattle has plenty. Wright would likely be the main one on the move, considering his draft status and potential. David Goyette, as well, could be considered after an impressive 92-point season last year in the Ontario Hockey League.
Below is my final mock draft for Seattle to acquire Erik Karlsson:
Seattle receives: Erik Karlsson (50% retained)
San Jose receives: 2024 1st Round Pick, 2024 3rd Round Pick, Vince Dunn (RFA Rights), Shane Wright