It's no secret that San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson will be among the hottest commodities at the NHL trade deadline in March. As that day looms closer and closer, Karlsson is making his intentions known to the organization.
In an appearance on the "Got Yer Back" podcast with TSN's Pierre LeBrun and Ryan Rishaug, Karlsson revealed that going to a contender is a top priority for him at this stage of his professional career.
"I'm always going to advocate that. That's always been who I am, and I want to win," Karlsson said. "That's always going to be my objective. I think my family knows and understands that, and they support me in whatever decision I want to take professionally. It doesn't mean it's going to be easy to make a move right now with everything. But if it comes right down to it, I don't think there would be any issues doing it.
"I will never sway from that. I want to win. And I think as you get older and you've been around for a longer time, you realize that it's not as easy as it looks, and you've got to hit it right at the right time."
Karlsson does have a full no-movement clause in his contract, so he can veto any potential deal that the Sharks place in front of him. The veteran defenseman also has a lofty contract as he's making $11.5 million this season.
Earlier this month, teams begun calling the Sharks to inquire about the availability of Karlsson.
Karlsson is in the midst of his best season since the Sharks acquired him in a trade from the Ottawa Senators back in 2018. The 32-year old currently leads all NHL defensemen in points (62), goals (15), and assists (47). Karlsson also leads the entire league in assists while ranking sixth in points.
Karlsson is currently on pace for 111 points (27 goals & 84 assists) during the 2022-23 season. That would easily surpass his previous career-highs of points (82), goals (21), and assists (66).
The Sharks will likely be looking to move Karlsson prior to the league's trade deadline on March 3 considering that the team currently has a 14-23-9 record.
With the talented defenseman potentially being on the move, here's a look at five of most logical destinations for Karlsson.
It was a rough start to the season for Edmonton as they were forced to be without one of their top forwards in Evander Kane for an extended period. However, after missing two months, Kane returned to the lineup earlier this week and Edmonton is still in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference. That's why the Oilers make a ton of sense when it comes to making a splash and attempting to solidify their blue line with Karlsson. Former first round picks Jesse Puljujarvi and Dylan Holloway would likely be on the move in a potential deal. It also doesn't hurt that the Oilers own their first round picks over the next three seasons, so that could be very enticing to the Sharks.
The Kraken have quickly become contenders in the Pacific Division despite only being in their second season in the NHL. They're currently tied with the Vegas Golden Knights for the division lead and have shown that they can clash with some of the league's heavyweights. However, the blue line is one area that could certainly be addressed since the team doesn't possess an elite-level defenseman. With less high-profile players on their roster, the Kraken can absorb Karlsson's large cap hit. The Sharks would be foolish to not at least try to pry 2022 first round Shane Wright away from the Kraken in any potential deal. Even if that doesn't come to fruition, Seattle owns their first round pick as well as three second round picks in 2023, so they have plenty of attractive assets that should interest San Jose.
The song and dance has remained the same for the Toronto Maple Leafs in recent years. This is a franchise that hasn't gotten out of the opening round of the postseason in each of the past six years and something's got to give. The Maple Leafs' defense has been depleted by injuries throughout the 2022-23 season. Jake Muzzin is currently out of the lineup with a cervical spine injury and may not play again this season. In addition, TJ Brodie, Morgan Rielly, and Jordie Benn are all currently injured, so Toronto may be forced to make a move. Talented forward Nick Robertson and top prospect Matthew Knies could certainly be on the table in a potential deal involving Karlsson. Having Karlsson on the ice with the likes of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner from an offensive standpoint would be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Considering that Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas' job could be on the line if the team flounders again, it would make a ton of sense for Toronto to swing for the fences.
The Capitals may not be the clubhouse leaders to make a move for Karlsson, but perhaps the team wants to make a final Stanley Cup run or two before Alex Ovechkin hangs up his skates. John Carlson is the only defenseman that the Capitals have signed to a contract beyond this season, so adding Karlsson would make sense. If the Sharks agree to retain a significant portion of Karlsson's salary, the Capitals could certainly make a deal work. Their 2023 first round pick as well as top prospects Connor McMichael and Ivan Miroshnichenko would likely be on the table in exchange for Karlsson. The idea of teaming up with Ovechkin could be intriguing to the veteran defenseman.
This is one that is really going to depend where the team is when the trade deadline draws closer. The Panthers currently have a 22-20-5 record (49 points) and are two points out of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Florida has players like forward Patric Hornqvist ($5.3 million) and defenseman Radko Gudas ($2.5 million) coming off of their books following the 2022-23 season, so they'll have the cap space to make it work going forward. The Sharks could also agree to absorb some of Karlsson's salary to drive up the package that they receive in return. The Panthers have already traded their first round picks over the next three years, but have many attractive forwards that would likely interest the Sharks. 21-year old center prospect Anton Lundell and potentially a player like Carter Verhaeghe could be enough to get a deal done for Karlsson. In adding Karlsson, it would give the Panthers two work horse blue-liners along with Aaron Ekblad.