Erik Karlsson Trade

How experts graded Sharks' three-team Karlsson blockbuster

NBC Universal, Inc. Following the Erik Karlsson trade, Mike Grier speaks to the Sharks media about the importance of cap flexibility.

The Sharks dealt star defenseman Erik Karlsson to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday in a three-team trade that ended weeks of speculation, but how did San Jose fare in the blockbuster?

To refresh, the trade included the Sharks, Penguins and Montreal Canadiens, sending Karlsson, forwards Rem Pitlick and Dillon Hamaliuk, along with San Jose's 2026 third-round draft pick, to Pittsburgh.

The Sharks received the Penguins' 2025 first-round pick (top-10 protected), forwards Mikael Granlund and Mike Hoffman as well as defenseman Jan Rutta, while the Canadiens received the Penguins' 2025 second-round draft pick, goalie Casey DeSmith, forward Nathan Legare and defenseman Jeff Petry.

And on the financial end, San Jose will retain $1.5 million of Karlsson's salary per year while Pittsburgh will retain 25 percent of Petry's salary.

We've rounded up Karlsson trade grades from NHL experts across the web, and here's how they believe each team did in the deal:

The Athletic

Sharks: C; Penguins: A+; Canadiens: A-

"Erik Karlsson wouldn’t fit perfectly on every roster, or in every set of circumstances. We should establish that, straight away.

For all his gifts — and man, they were on display last season during a 101-point renaissance that won him a third Norris Trophy — he’s still 33 years old. That’s part of the reason he’s no longer a Shark. He’s still expensive. That’s why some other enterprising contender didn’t beat Pittsburgh to the finish line. He’s still another foot injury away from disaster, or something approaching it. That’s a bit of reality that adds to the intrigue on the Penguins’ end. ...

The Sharks bought a first-round pick and cleared long-term cap space. Rutta could get something down the line. It’s ugly, owing back to Karlsson’s contract and a dearth of contenders with cap space and a glaring need, but it probably qualifies as the bare minimum.

I like the deal for Montreal. They get back a discounted version of Petry to either provide solid minutes on the right side — which he’s certainly capable of — or to flip to another team. Two years of Petry at $4.69 million, given Pittsburgh’s retention, doesn’t sound bad at all. DeSmith is a solid backup. They had no real use for Hoffman or Pitlick, and second-round picks can be helpful." - Sean Gentille

Sharks: C-; Penguins: A+; Canadiens: B+

"... It feels like San Jose really shot themselves in the foot with the return here because they weren’t willing to hang onto more of Karlsson’s cap. Yes, that would cost them for four years, versus the two years of Granlund’s contract, but it’s a retention slot that’ll be used, regardless. Management should have been more willing to leverage that to squeeze the Penguins, or any other team in the mix, for a better return.

Now the Sharks have moved their two biggest trade pieces in Karlsson and Timo Meier with fairly underwhelming returns back. These were the deals that should have brought back pieces to really push this rebuild along, and San Jose really missed the opportunity." - Shayna Goldman

Yahoo Sports

Sharks: C-; Penguins: A+; Canadiens: A

"Rebuilding teams could learn a lot from the Sharks’ many stumbles. One lesson is that timing is absolutely crucial. From the outside, it sure looks like the Sharks failed to trade Karlsson at the optimal moment, which feels similar to not getting a whole lot for Brent Burns last summer.

A Sharks fan stewing about a lack of prime prospects from Burns, Karlsson and even Timo Meier trades wouldn’t just be embittered, they’d be enlightened. There’s only so much you can say to spin the Karlsson trade as an up-front win for the Sharks.

That said, while the Sharks are mucking up the execution part of their rebuild plan, the concept is justified enough that you can start to see some daylight. ... So far, the execution hasn’t been there for the Sharks, but the Karlsson trade crystallizes a plan of short-term pain and hopefully long-term gain.

Right now, the Sharks’ pain translates to serious gains for both the Penguins and Canadiens. A lot can change when those teams get their final grades, though." - James O'Brien

USA Today

Sharks: D; Penguins: A+; Canadiens: B

"The Sharks were never going to win a Karlsson deal, even trading him at his peak price. While the 2024 first-round pick is a great get — adding to the pick San Jose already has next year — it’s not hard to feel disappointed at this return.

Granlund, Rutta and Hoffman are all above the age of 30 and set to be off the roster by 2025-26 when their contracts expire. Outside of the first-rounder next year, the Sharks got nothing to facilitate their rebuild. Sure, the three roster players the Sharks picked up will help the team continue to stay in the NHL’s basement for another chance at a high pick next year, but to get no prospects here is head-scratching. It would have been nice if the Sharks got another young prospect to add to their cupboard alongside their most recent first-round pick Will Smith.

Not really sure what general manager Mike Grier was doing here, to be honest." - Mary Clarke

The Score

Sharks: D+; Penguins: A; Canadiens: B+

"Karlsson appeared in all 82 games and skated for 25:37 nightly last season. That means he was on the ice for close to 45% of San Jose's campaign. The Sharks plummeted in the standings anyway, recording 60 points to drop to fourth-last in the league while posting the franchise's worst points percentage (.366) since 1996.

Next season promises to be miserable. That's for the best. Drafting future stars is what makes a rebuild tolerable. Jettisoning Karlsson positions the Sharks to tank and add a cornerstone who'll play with Will Smith and William Eklund, headliners of GM Mike Grier's ascendant yet unspectacular prospect pool.

The problem with the Karlsson deal is the pool didn't improve Sunday. Grier obtained one decent asset - Pittsburgh's 2024 first-rounder - while committing to pay Granlund and Rutta for two seasons. The Sharks assumed that burden, as well as the final year of Hoffman's contract, to avoid retaining more than 13% of Karlsson's AAV.

Karlsson's age and steep price tag conspired to lighten the return. To land him in 2018, San Jose sent Ottawa two budding star centers: Josh Norris and the draft pick that became Tim Stutzle. Between the Karlsson, Timo Meier, and Brent Burns trade packages, Grier procured two Round 1 selections, using the first in June to draft winger Quentin Musty at 26th overall.

The Sharks' cap sheet remains messy. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who's 36 years old, is signed for $7 million annually through 2026. Captain Logan Couture, 34, owns an $8-million cap hit through 2027. Tomas Hertl is only 29 but commands more than $8.1 million per year through 2030 on a pact that predates Grier's hiring.

More trades await. The returns for those players, if and when they're moved, will probably underwhelm. Grier didn't get a ton back for the one guy who made his squad watchable." - Nick Faris

The Hockey Writers

Sharks: B; Penguins: A+; Canadiens: B+

"The Sharks probably wanted more futures in their return for Karlsson. But just because they only got a 2024 first-round pick doesn’t mean there won’t be more futures to come from this trade down the road. Granlund has two years left on his deal, but if he bounces back, he could be a valuable trade chip at the 2024 trade deadline. 

Though Granlund’s game fell off a cliff with the Penguins, he is still a very good passer. With a shooter like Mike Hoffman, who comes to San Jose from the Canadiens, it could help boost each player’s value moving forward. Granlund’s impacts don’t need to improve significantly, but if his counting totals take a jump, that benefits the Sharks. 

The same applies to Hoffman too. He has one year left on his contract at a cap hit of $4.5 million, and since the Sharks are unlikely to be competitive in 2023-24, he could be a trade chip at the deadline. He’s not the player he used to be, but he’s still an effective shooter. He just needs someone to get him the puck. Perhaps that’s Granlund, or maybe it’s Logan Couture or Tomas Hertl. But if he can score goals this season, that only increases his value. 

Also coming to San Jose from Pittsburgh is Rutta, who has two years left on his deal at a cap hit of $2.75 million. He’s been a reliable third-pair defender for most of his career and even played up the lineup a bit during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Cup runs. He could net the Sharks something at the 2024 or 2025 trade deadlines, but for the immediate future, he provides a stabilizing presence defensively.

Sharks GM Mike Grier made out OK in a tough spot with limited destinations for Karlsson. They get the additional first in 2024, but Granlund, Rutta and Hoffman could all bring them back more futures in trades down the road. Add in that they only retained $1.5 million of Karlsson’s $11.5 million cap hit, and now the Sharks’ long-term cap outlook looks how it should for a rebuilding team. That may be the most important part of this trade and helps raise the Sharks’ grade." - Alex Chauvancy

The Hockey News

Sharks: B+; Penguins: A-; Canadiens: N/A

"GM Mike Grier and the San Jose Sharks get a B+ for the trade of Erik Karlsson. 

The best part for the Sharks in the deal is how much of EK65's contract was retained. 13% of Karlsson's $11.5 million annual cap hit will be on the Sharks' cap breakdown for the remaining four seasons of the contract. 13% is $1.5 million annually.

He has been productive in the past, scoring 64 points for Nashville in the 21-22 season. However, once he was traded to the Penguins, Granlund scored one goal and four assists in 21 games.

Hoffman is finally a San Jose Shark. The winger was traded to the Sharks in the 2018 offseason but, within an hour, was flipped to the Florida Panthers. The 33-year-old is known for his shooting ability and will be a UFA at season's end. His cap hit is $4.5 million. 

Rutta is a veteran defenseman who has made his rounds throughout the league. Rutta won the Stanley Cup twice, both times with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rutta was often the defense partner of Victor Hedman. His cap hit is $2.75 million for the next two seasons. 

The 2024 first-round pick the San Jose Sharks received from Pittsburgh is top-ten protected and will slide to the 2025 draft if the Penguins have a top-ten selection in the 2024 draft. 

Grier did a great job getting $10 million of Erik Karlsson's cap hit off the Sharks' books, but the return of veterans and one first-round pick is okay at best. Based on the return, it seems like Grier opted to take a slightly lesser return for more cap flexibility in the next four seasons." - Max Miller

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