Since the end of last season, one of the biggest NHL questions of the offseason centered on high-scoring defenseman Erik Karlsson. He led all defensemen in scoring while playing for the struggling San Jose Sharks, and he made it clear that he wanted to play for a team that had a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
The conversation centered on the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins, and a deal was finally made Sunday. The Shark traded Karlsson to the Penguins in a 3-team deal that also featured the Montreal Canadiens.
San Jose received forwards Mikael Granlund and Mike Hoffman, defenseman Jan Rutta and a conditional first-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft in the trade.
Pittsburgh also received forward Rem Pitlick, forward prospect Dillon Hamaliuk and a third-round pick in the 2026 NHL Draft.
Montreal received defenseman Jeff Petry, goalie Casey DeSmith, forward prospect Nathan Legare and a second-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft, all from Pittsburgh.
“We've been going at it for a while trying to get this done. It's been a bit of a grind,” Sharks general manager Mike Grier said. “Happy to get it done with. Having the cap flexibility and financial flexibility was really important for us moving forward. … We want to thank Erik for his contributions in San Jose over the last four years and congratulate him on a remarkable and historic 2022-23 season.”
Karlsson — On to the Penguins
This trade represents something of a gamble for the Penguins, because they would not have attempted to add a high-priced 31-year-old veteran like Karlsson unless they believed they had a legitimate chance to make a run at a Stanley Cup.
The 33-year-old defenseman had 101 points (25 goals, 76 assists) in 82 games with the Sharks in 2022-23. He became the sixth defenseman in NHL history to reach the 100-point mark and the first since Brian Leetch did it for the Rangers in 1991-92
A high-scoring defenseman is a game-changing weapon, but Karlsson appears to be focused on his offense and little else. He is not known for his defensive play, and that is something that could cost the Penguins are playing elite teams that can move the puck easily in the offensive zone.
Head coach Mike Sullivan can draw up offensive plays that benefit the Penguins with Karlsson in the lineup, but he may have a hard time stopping opponents from filling up the Pittsburgh net.
The addition of Pitlick is complementary move, while the addition of Hamaliuk depends on that player's development from this point forward.
The Penguins are a veteran-laden team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. If those 3 mesh with Karlsson, the Pens will be a formidable team on several nights this season. However, they do not appear to be a Stanley Cup-contending team.
Give this trade a grade of B for the Penguins.
Sharks add 3 players and say goodbye to Karlsson
The addition of Hoffman gives the Sharks a legitimate goal scorer who can find the net when he gets inside the offensive zone.
Hoffman scored 14 goals and 20 assists in 67 games with Montreal last season. The 33-year-old has 464 points in 679 regular-season games for the Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Senators and is a six-time 20-goal scorer.
“I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to play in San Jose,” Hoffman said. “… I can bring some offense and help the power play out, and bring a little veteran leadership as well.
Granlund had 42 points in 79 games with the Penguins and Nashville Predators last season. Rutta is a defensive defenseman who scored 9 points while playing with the Pens last season. He has also played with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has 2 seasons remaining on his contract.
Give the Sharks a grade of B+ for their role in the trade.
Canadiens add key defenseman and goalie in Karlsson deal
Petry is a well-rounded defenseman who scored 27 points with the Penguins last year, and he goes back to the Canadiens. He played with Montreal from 2014 through 2021, and now he returns.
Petry has 353 points throughout his career with the Penguins, Canadiens and Oilers.
DeSmith has been an up-and-down performer throughout his career, and the Canadiens are hoping he can gain a bit more consistency than he has showed to this point.
DeSmith was 15-16-4 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .905 save percentage while playing with the Pens last year.
The Habs certainly have hope that the veterans will work out, but the best asset may be the 2025 second-round draft pick. Give Montreal a grade of C+ for the trade.