Is Erik Karlsson a realistic trade target for the Oilers?
As the March 3 trade deadline approaches, the Edmonton Oilers have just over two weeks to strengthen their roster ahead of a critical stretch of the road and appear to be eyeing two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.
The Edmonton have reportedly been chasing the San Jose Sharks guard for much of this season. the team is again involved in trade discussions last weekend. While nothing seems inevitable, negotiations between both parties are likely to only intensify as the deadline approaches.
But would buying Karlsson be the right move for the Oilers? More importantly, can they realistically afford the NHL’s highest paid defenseman given the organization’s current financial crisis?
Let’s start with a potential fit. The 32-year-old blueliner has been one of the top-scoring shooting guards of the past decade, hitting seven 60-point seasons in 14 NHL campaigns and is now the best campaign of his career.
Karlsson leads all blueliners this season with 18 goals, while his whopping 73 points also lead all defensemen and ranks sixth among all skaters in the league. The four-time All-Star also ranks sixth in average ice time (25:27), 16 spots ahead of Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse (23:43).
At his current pace, the veteran right-hander is destined to set new career highs in both goals (21 in 2014/15) and points (82 in 2015/16), and he could do it while playing in a rebuilding team.” Sharks.” But imagine what would happen to his scoring if he were on the same team as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, especially as the new anchor for this already absurd powerplay.
The Oilers reportedly searched all season for a quarterback who could handle heavy workloads. Although they have also been linked with Arizona’s Jacob Chichran – another shooting guard – Karlsson is likely a better fit for Edmonton’s strategy.
With 14 NHL seasons under his belt, including six playoff appearances, Karlsson will add another layer of veteran experience to the Edmonton locker room, a vital aspect they have been missing since Duncan Keith’s retirement.
As the man with two final conference appearances, one in 2017 with the Ottawa Senators and the other with the Sharks in 2019, the former No. 15 overall knows what it takes to start a deep postseason race, and can share this knowledge with his new teammates.
The addition of Karlsson will also address the team’s longstanding weakness related to its top defensive line, which includes Nurse and Cody Ceci. This duo was effective in a 5v5 game, although there were times when they lacked attack.
However, with a high-profile player on the Nurse’s side rather than a defensive guard, the Oilers’ offensive performance is likely to rise even higher as they move forward. The power play will also get a significant boost.
Tyson Barry, who has scored three goals and 23 points with a player lead this season, is currently the only defenseman on Edmonton’s first powerplay team. He was reliable in this role, but not a threat to shooting, at least not unlike Karlsson.
In terms of on-ice play, the superstar guard and his elite skating would pair perfectly with the Oilers’ offensive armament and speed, theoretically giving Edmonton one of the deadliest PP1 units the league has ever seen. However, there are additional factors at play here, namely the financial implications of landing a player of his caliber and the level of wages.
Here’s where pursuing Karlsson gets tricky: His eight-year contract runs until 2026-27 and he’s making $11.5 million per season. Meanwhile in Edmonton $1.97 million in long-term injury reserveand that’s before Kyler Yamamoto ($3.1 million cap hit) returned to the active roster.
The Oilers’ cap situation is so tense that Jesse Pulujärvi (already $3 million) could be waived this week to make room for Yamamoto’s upcoming return. It would also not be ideal, as there would be only 12 strikers left in the team, although there are not many alternatives.
To make a legitimate run for Karlsson, GM Ken Holland will have to use his money-in-the-money strategy again, as he has repeatedly stated throughout the season. But this can also be a very difficult process.
In all likelihood, the Oilers will demand that the Sharks keep 50 percent of Karlsson’s remaining contract, which they have so far been unwilling to do. Daily face-off Frank Seravalli. So far, freshman general manager Mike Grier is only poised to score 18-20 percent and also has three first-rounders or equivalent.
Unless these requirements change, an Edmonton-San Jose blockbuster featuring Karlsson is simply not possible. And even if they do, the Oilers will likely need to find a third-party broker to get rid of some of his costly cap shot.
At 50 percent, Karlsson’s cap would drop to $5.75 million, which is a pretty reasonable number but one that the Oilers will have a hard time absorbing. But if another team takes on 25 percent – or slightly less – of the remaining amount, putting him on Edmonton’s payroll becomes more achievable.
Management will still have to trade one of their current blueliners to make room for Karlsson’s reduced figure, with a ceiling of $2 million or higher. This would result in one of Barry ($4.5 million), Ceci ($3.25 million) or Brett Fist ($2.75 million) being moved.
However, the disadvantage of this approach would mean sending future assets to two franchises, not just one. As a result, this could leave the Oilers’ prospect system, led by top young guard Philip Broberg, extremely lean.
On the other hand, if the furore for Karlsson leads to even one Stanley Cup for McDavid and Draisaitl, it might be worth sacrificing part of the franchise’s competitive window.
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