NHL Rumor Mill – July 21, 2023
The summer of Erik Karlsson continues with more speculation linking the Sharks defenseman to the Penguins. Check out the latest plus some possible Sabres trade candidates in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
MORE “KARLSSON TO PITTSBURGH” RUMORS
THE ATHLETIC: Rob Rossi reports the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes remain the primary suitors for Erik Karlsson as both clubs have permission to speak with the San Jose Sharks defenseman. The Penguins have had multiple people (apart from president of hockey ops Kyle Dubas) talking to Karlsson in recent weeks and several within the organization are confident that the Penguins are his preferred destination.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and top defenseman Kris Letang have endorsed the pursuit of Karlsson. Letang would remain their No. 1 defenseman and skate on the top pairing but he’s willing to change his role on their top power-play unit to allow Karlsson to quarterback it.
Dubas and his staff are working on several scenarios that would allow them to acquire Karlsson while remaining cap compliant. One is a straight-up trade with the Sharks. Another would involve a third team with salary-cap space. There could also be a scenario that would include buying out a current roster player such as Mikael Granlund.
Rossi also indicated that Dubas spoke with Jeff Petry last month in Detroit about all possibilities, including a trade. The 35-year-old defenseman is not open to a trade far away from his family in Michigan. He has a 15-team no-trade list.
The Sharks are interested in Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson as part of the deal but Dubas has resisted offers thus far. The Penguins’ hockey ops president also favors top-five protection on any first-round draft picks and expects the Sharks will retain a portion of Karlsson’s $11.5 million cap hit. How much they’ll retain depends on what assets the Sharks receive in return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As expected, a Karlsson-to-Pittsburgh trade would be a complex deal involving a lot of moving parts.
It certainly seems like the Penguins are the front-runners. The most we’ve heard about the Hurricanes’ interest is they’re “monitoring” the situation. That doesn’t mean they’re not making offers or trying to work a deal but there’s been almost nothing of substance being reported about their efforts to land the Sharks blueliner.
Rossi noted the Penguins get a second contract buyout window because of Drew O’Connor filing for arbitration. His arbitration hearing is Aug. 4 but he and the Penguins could reach an agreement on a new contract by then. Whether O’Connor’s situation is settled before his hearing or requires an arbiter’s decision, the Penguins will have 48 hours following the settlement to buy out a roster player.
That could explain why the much-anticipated trade sending Karlsson to Pittsburgh hasn’t taken place yet.
POTENTIAL SABRES TRADE CANDIDATES
THE ATHLETIC: Matthew Fairburn recently looked at several Buffalo Sabres who could become trade candidates. The club currently has 10 NHL defensemen and three goaltenders who could be ready to play this season. They also have several forward prospects who could be ready to join the lineup.
Winger Victor Olofsson is the most logical trade candidate given his one-dimensional play and that he was a healthy scratch during some key games down the stretch. His $4.75 million cap hit for this season makes him tough to move under a flattened cap. The offseason injury to Jack Quinn could force management to retain Olofsson until Quinn’s return.
The Sabres’ blueline depth could make Henri Jokiharju expendable. He does have some value which could make him a more realistic trade candidate before the start of the season. Ilya Lyubushkin could also be available but might not have as much value as Jokiharju.
They must also decide between goalies Eric Comrie and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Comrie could have some value around the league as a cheap backup. Other trade options include Jacob Bryson and Riley Stillman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: One or two players on Fairburn’s list could be playing elsewhere when the Sabres open their season in October. Olofsson seemed to be a goner for sure before Quinn was sidelined. Perhaps they’ll evaluate the performance of their promising forwards to determine if they can part with him before the season begins.
When it comes to Comrie and Luukkonen I can’t see them parting with the latter. Still, it could come down to training camp and preseason performance.