by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of NHL.com.
The trade rumors that have engulfed the Pittsburgh airwaves for the past 2 months have finally come to fruition. Erik Karlsson is now a Pittsburgh Penguin and will soon be a fan favorite inside PPG Paints Arena.
The 14-year veteran defenseman has been an offensive force since being drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the first round, 15th overall, in the 2008 NHL Draft. He played 9 seasons in Ottawa and won 2 Norris Trophy Awards (2012, 2015). He had back-to-back 20-goal seasons in 2014-2015 and in 2018 he was traded to San Jose for 4 players and 2 draft picks during the offseason.
He struggled in his first 4 seasons with the Sharks, trying to stay healthy. During his time with the Sharks, the most games he played was 56 in 2019-2020, and his high in points was only 45 in 2018-2019.
That changed during the 2022-2023 season as Karlsson set career highs in goals (25), assists (76), and points (101) on his way to winning his third Norris Trophy Award in a season where he played all 82 games.
Erik Karlsson is a game changing talent and when he is healthy, is one of the best defensemen in the game. He will quarterback the Pens' power play, adding to the already talented unit of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel. He will dictate the pace of the game and seems to always have the puck on his stick. He is quick on breakouts from his own end and plays a less reckless style than his new teammate Kris Letang.
His defensive skills are lacking, but the Pens will trade defense for offense with the potential production Karlsson brings. He’s one of the league’s smoothest skaters who can carry the puck out of trouble or into an offensive attack. Chances are he will be paired with another newcomer, Ryan Graves, whose defensive acumen should be a nice counterbalance and help out on the defensive side.
New Penguins GM Kyle Dubas, in his few short months on the job, has remade the Penguins into a potential playoff team. One thing is a guarantee—the 2023 Penguins are going to be a fun team to watch.