Revisiting the Pittsburgh Penguins-Erik Karlsson Trade

Erik Karlsson

On August 6, 2023, a blockbuster trade between three teams was announced with the main piece, three-time Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson, being sent from the San Jose Sharks to the Pittsburgh Penguins, with the Montreal Canadiens getting involved to help with some moving pieces. With each of the three teams involved all missing the playoffs once again, who was the winner of this trade after one full season?

To break down the trade, the Penguins sent their 2024 1st round draft pick, Jan Rutta, and recently acquired Mikael Granlund to the Sharks as well as their 2025 2nd round draft pick, prospect Nathan Légaré, Casey DeSmith, and Jeff Petry (retaining 1.562 million of his salary) to the Canadiens.

The Canadiens sent Mike Hoffman to the Sharks and Rem Pitlick to the Penguins.

The Sharks sent their 2026 3rd-round pick, Dillon Hamaliuk, and Erik Karlsson (retaining 1.5 million of his salary) to the Penguins.

It was a massive move to offload expensive assets by the new President of Hockey Operations & General Manager of the Penguins, Kyle Dubas, while also bringing in fresh faces to hopefully reinvigorate the aging lineup. Unfortunately, the Penguins may have made too many changes, which shook up the locker room and left the Pens just a few points shy of a playoff berth for the second season in a row. But, I wouldn’t say they lost this trade.

Erik Karlsson

Erik Karlsson, 34, fresh off a Norris Trophy-winning 101-point season, was eager to leave San Jose in hopes of achieving playoff success. Coming from such a prominent role with the Sharks in the 2022-23 season, where he either assisted or scored on just over 43% of their goals, Karlsson had to adapt his game to fit in with a team that already had major offensive capabilities as well as sharing the blue line with another offensive defenseman, Kris Letang.

From a previous career-high season, Karlsson dropped from 101 points to 56 points in his first season with the Penguins, which was a career-low when playing all 82 games. Despite this massive dropoff, Karlsson still finished at the top of the league in points for defensemen, tied at 13th in points. He also finished with a positive plus/minus score, something he hasn’t been able to achieve since the 2018-19 season. Karlsson was able to adapt his speed and second-line position to not only improve his game but continue to be a solid point producer.

His salary being at 10 million a year until the 2026-27 season for the Penguins does hurt with the drop off in production. He currently sits tied for twelfth place in the league for highest-paid players and is the highest-paid player on the Penguins, but is third highest in points, sitting behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and tied with Bryan Rust.

Dillon Hamaliuk

Dillon Hamaliuk, 23, has yet to break into the NHL after being a 2nd round pick by San Jose in the 2019 Draft. Previously, he spent time in the WHL and AHL under San Jose, but only played eight games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, recording only one point, and played the rest of the season in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers, recording a solid 39 points in 36 games. With the future dependent on these younger Penguins in the near future, Hamaliuk can hopefully bring some offense once he is ready for the big leagues.

Rem Pitlick

Rem Pitlick, 27, was immediately waived and sent down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He recorded 24 points in 32 games before getting traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on January 6, 2024, for a conditional pick. He played the remainder of the season in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs recording 33 points in 27 games. The conditions of the draft pick were not met, meaning this move was solely to move his 1.1 million salary off the books. Pitlick served his role in the blockbuster trade.

Mike Hoffman

Mike Hoffman, 34, has spent his NHL career bouncing from team to team. He recorded a career-high of 70 points in the 2018-19 season with the Florida Panthers and has been slowly decreasing that point total since. He recorded 23 points in 66 games with the Sharks this past season and is a UFA this summer.

Jan Rutta

Jan Rutta, 33, signed with the Penguins heading into the 2022-23 season after playing the last three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, being a solid defenseman in their three runs to the Stanley Cup finals. Rutta had an average season with the Penguins before getting sent to the Sharks where he recorded 19 points in 69 games, finishing at a minus 21. His move was to make room for EK65’s slot in the lineup and in the books.

Mikael Granlund

On March 1, 2023, the Nashville Predators sent fan favorite, Mikael Granlund, 32, to the Penguins at the trade deadline for a 2023 2nd-round pick. He played 21 games for Pittsburgh, recording a measly five points in their final stretch. Dubas was smart in moving Granlund and his 5 million to San Jose, as Pittsburgh had plenty of other pieces that fit the lineup better than Granlund could. He played 69 games this season, recording a respectable 60 points for the Sharks. He fit in well with their lineup in a bleak season. 

Nathan Légaré

The Montreal Canadiens were quick to move the assets they received in their end of the deal, and young Nathan Légaré, 23, was no exception. On March 11, 2024, Légaré was the last piece to be shipped out and headed to the New Jersey Devils. He recorded a low of 12 points through 54 games between the Laval Rocket and the Utica Comets. Dubas recognized the situation and sending him out as a piece to get EK65 is looking like a great move.

Casey DeSmith

Case DeSmith, 32, had been a decent backup goaltender in Pittsburgh. He had decent numbers, but a .905 save percentage to finish the 2022-23 season was enough for Dubas to ship him out to Montreal, who then flipped him in September to the Vancouver Canucks. Dubas signed Alex Nedeljkovic, 28, for the same price as DeSmith and posted similar numbers. Nedeljkovic, a UFA this summer, is younger and had glimpses of glory in his final season with the Carolina Hurricanes, he could be a solid tandem partner for Tristan Jarry if he is re-signed and could return to form.

Jeff Petry

Jeff Petry, 36, had been sent to Pittsburgh from Montreal in July 2022. He posted decent numbers after a drop off the season prior, but with a salary of 6.25 million, Dubas made a smart choice to flip the expensive, aging defenseman. Karlsson is a few years younger and has the points and speed to back him up. Petry was quickly flipped once again by his former team to the Detroit Red Wings.

Trade Winner

It may not seem like a huge victory, but this was a big win for the Penguins, and honestly, each team benefited in their own ways. The Pens desperately needed to clear their cap and got a top-tier defenseman and a hopeful prospect in the process. Losing this year’s 1st round pick is a hard blow especially missing the playoffs once again, but hopefully, with a season of team bonding behind them and new assistant coach David Quinn, who worked with Karlsson in San Jose, the Penguins will be able to jump back into contention in the short time they have left in the Crosby era.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

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