After being sidelined on and off by injuries since 2018-19, San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson is enjoying a fine bounce-back season.
The 32-year-old leads all defensemen with a career-best output of 22 goals and 68 assists for 90 points in 73 games. That performance should make him the favorite to take home the James Norris Memorial Trophy for the third time.
Karlsson has also been the subject of trade speculation since mid-November when Sharks general manager Mike Grier told reporters he would listen to offers for the resurgent rearguard. With the Sharks mired near the bottom of the standings, Karlsson continued to appear in the rumor mill leading up to the March 3 trade deadline.
The Edmonton Oilers were often mentioned as trying to swing a deal before deadline day for Karlsson. Speaking with reporters prior to the March 20 game in Edmonton between the two clubs, he said he heard the rumors but was never approached about waiving his no-movement clause.
Moving Karlsson's contract during the season with so many teams strapped for cap space was too difficult to pull off before the deadline. He's signed through 2026-27 with an average annual value of $11.5 million along with his aforementioned no-move clause.
Karlsson's performance this season could entice teams to try again in the offseason when they'll have more cap space to work with.
The Sharks might have to retain up to half of his cap hit for the right offer. Perhaps a third team gets involved, such as a rebuilding club with cap space like the Anaheim Ducks or Arizona Coyotes, to spread the cap dollars around in exchange for a draft pick or prospect.
Last month, we looked at potential destinations for Karlsson leading up to the trade deadline. Here's an updated look at where he might end up during the summer trade market. You can express your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
After years of a long and often painful rebuild, the Buffalo Sabres seemed on the verge of finally clinching a playoff spot. In their final game (Feb. 1) before the All-Star break, they were sitting just one point out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 56 points.
It's been all downhill since then for the Sabres, who won just nine of their next 22 games to slide six points out of contention. A shaky defense was a contributing factor, as they gave up the fourth-most goals against per game (3.68) while their 72.4 penalty-killing percentage ranked 31st overall.
The Sabres possess a standout defenseman in Rasmus Dahlin and a budding star in Owen Power on the left side of their blue line. However, they lack comparable talent among their right-side rearguards. Adding Erik Karlsson would provide the Sabres with experienced skill and leadership provided he's willing to waive his no-movement clause to join them.
With $19.5 million in cap space and 20 roster players under contract for next season, the Sabres can afford to take on Karlsson's full cap hit and have enough remaining to perhaps add a veteran goaltender. Nevertheless, they could try to convince the Sharks to retain some salary, especially with Dahlin and Power due for big raises after next season.
The Sabres can draw on their deep prospect pool for trade bait to tempt the Sharks. Getting them to retain a healthy chunk of Karlsson's cap hit could mean parting with a couple of quality prospects such as Matthew Savoie, Jiri Kulich or Noah Östlund. Given the depth of young talent already on their roster, they can afford to make this move if they want to.