by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of The Hockey News.
After two months of rumors, it has finally happened. Erik Karlsson has been traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Karlsson, the three time Norris Trophy winner, brings the Penguins another elite player to a team that already has future hall of famers Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. Coming off arguably his best season, Karlsson won his third Norris Trophy and scored 101 points in 82 games for the Sharks, proving he’s still playing at an elite level. He will greatly improve the Penguins power play, and allow Kris Letang to move to the second unit, empowering a lackluster group from last year. And with Jake Guentzel starting the season on the IR, the Penguins will be looking for scoring anywhere they can get it.
The cost to bring Karlsson to Pittsburgh was not cheap, but less than what analysts anticipated. The Penguins traded forward Mikael Granlund, defenseman Jan Rutta, and a 2024 first round pick to San Jose. The Montreal Canadiens were the third team involved in the deal, and the Penguins traded defenseman Jeff Petry, goalie Casey DeSmith, forward Nathan Legare and a 2025 second round pick to the Canadiens. The Penguins also obtained forward Rem Pitlick from Montreal, and forward Dillion Hamaliuk and a 2026 third round pick from San Jose.
With all the positives, Karlsson does struggle in his defensive end. He was a minus-26 last season, in a year he scored 101 points. But for a man in his early thirties, he still has the stamina of a younger player and averaged 25:37 seconds a game in 2022-23.
This year’s version of the Pittsburgh Penguins will be nothing short of exciting. Having Karlsson on the backend one shift and Letang the next is intriguing to say the least. Kyle Dubas finally got his man, failing to bring him to Toronto, but leveraging “futures” to bring his services to Pittsburgh.
Will it be enough to allow the Pens to lift Lord Stanley’s chalice one more time before the sun sets on this dynastic core? Only time will tell.