NHL Rumor Mill – April 24, 2023
MORE ERIK KARLSSON SPECULATION
Karlsson has indicated he wants to win and enjoys living and playing in San Jose. Sharks general manager Mike Grier enjoyed having the 32-year-old defenseman on the roster and will be happy to have him back next season. However, he’s also indicated he’s open to offers and if he gets a suitable one would take it to Karlsson, who has a full no-movement clause but would waive it for the right opportunity.
Keeping Karlsson would help the Sharks improve next season. It would also leave them a little shy of $15 million in cap space meaning they won’t be making expensive forays into the unrestricted free-agent market. They have several affordable restricted free agents to re-sign plus a need for a goalie to share the duties with Kaapo Kahkonen.
Grier could open more cap space by shopping Kevin Labanc or Radim Simek rather than buying out contracts. Both players are in the final year of their respective deals.
Trading Karlsson would leave a big hole in their blueline and leave them worse off than they were this season. Finding an eventual replacement will be a priority. They could look toward the 2023 NHL draft for a future potential No. 1 defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sharks will obviously be a better club with Karlsson in the lineup next season than without. However, it’s clear that they’re starting to rebuild under Grier. If he gets a suitable offer that Karlsson will accept, he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
Karlsson’s $11.5 million average annual value through 2026-27 remains as big an obstacle as his no-movement clause. Assuming the salary cap for next season rises higher than projected, it’s still going to be difficult for Grier to find a trade partner willing to take on that full cap hit. He’ll have to retain a significant chunk or take back a bad contract in return.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Karlsson is traded this summer. It will be interesting to see how Grier pulls it off.
DUBOIS EXPECTED AN OFFER SHEET FROM THE CANADIENS
TVA SPORTS: Appearing on The Sick Podcast with Tony Marinaro, The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline said Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois always wanted to play for the Montreal Canadiens during his tenure with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Portzline delved into the real reason behind Dubois’ departure from the Blue Jackets, pointing out that he was their top center and had bought a new apartment in Columbus. While the assumption was that Dubois was clashing with then-Jackets coach John Tortorella, Portzline believes that the center was expecting an offer sheet from the Canadiens.
He noted that Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen made two trades in the final hours before the free-agent market opened that year (“two defensemen out the door”) to ensure sufficient cap space to match any potential offer. Portzline thinks that’s what changed the relationship between Dubois and the Jackets’ management.
SPECTOR’ S NOTE: The two trades Portzline is referring to occurred on Oct. 8, the day before the 2020 NHL free-agent market opened.
Cap Friendly shows the Jackets sending Ryan Murray ($4.6 million) to the New Jersey Devils and Markus Nutivaara ($2.7 million) to the Florida Panthers. That move freed up a combined $7.3 million in cap space to match an offer sheet for Dubois by the Canadiens or another club.
Dubois signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Jackets on Dec. 31 before training camps opened for the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season. Over three weeks later, on Jan. 23, 2021, he was traded to the Jets.
This revelation by Portzline will only stoke speculation that he could be traded to the Canadiens this summer. It’s been rumored since last year that Dubois hopes to join the Canadiens by next summer as an unrestricted free agent. There was conjecture that his appearance at last year’s draft in Montreal was in anticipation of a trade to the Canadiens, though he subsequently denied that was the case.