Reporter suggests that Erik Karlsson to the Leafs could work, but is it the right move?

Mike Armenti
November 7, 2022  (11:58)

There's no denying that the Leafs could use a veteran top-4 defender with the injury to Jake Muzzin. Just what type of blueliner the Leafs could use is certainly up for debate. The most common belief is that the Buds could use someone similar to Muzzin stylistically - someeone who plays a strong two-way game who also brings a physical presence. Another train of thought is that the Leafs could use another solid puck-distributor who can make a solid outlet pass, as this was one of the team's weaknesses early on this season.

The Star's Kevin McGran had written last week that the Leafs and Erik Karlsson could be a good match, provided that the Sharks were willing to both retain some salary and take back a contract. Here's what McGran had to say on the proposition on November 1st.
"The Sharks, I'm told, are already in selling mode, which brings us to Erik Karlsson. He looks like his old self and looks as if he's auditioning for a trade. He's a right-handed puck-moving defenseman who may be trending back to elite status. He's only 32 with five years remaining on a cap hit of $11.5 million (U.S.). Say that in an ironic way and make a joke about how that cap hit would fit right in with the Leafs. That said, if the Sharks could retain half ... and take someone back making around $5.685 million, and a sweetener or two ... hmm."

McGran on the idea of the Leafs going after Erik Karlsson

Granted, Karlsson is the defensive goal scoring leader, the leader in overall points by a defenseman and the history is certainly there to suggest that he is capable of maintaining that. But there's also a lengthy history of injury there as well. I'm not so sure that another oft injured defenseman is what this team needs.
Further to that, Karlsson has 5 years left on his current deal at a whopping $11.5M per season. Even at $5.75M per season (50% salary retention), will the Leafs really want to be handcuffed to an aging defenseman with a lengthy injury history?
The counterpoint here would be that the Leafs are within their winning window now and that the addition of Erik Karlsson would undoubtedly make the Leafs a better team immediately - even if the long-term implications may not favour the Leafs. He's an offensive defenseman that certainly improves both power play units, as he brings a legitimate shooting threat to the top unit and pushes the very mobile, puck-distributing Morgan Rielly down to QB the 2nd PP unit.
As for how it all works, as McGran pointed out, if Muzzin is indeed looking at the end of his career, he could effectively be moved to San Jose in an LTIR retirement capacity, with the Leafs kicking the Sharks a couple of sweeteners to entice the Sharks into retaining 50% on Karlsson for 5 more seasons. As a rebuilding team, the Sharks should have no issue with that sort of a deal if it provides them a couple of pieces (say a draft pick and a solid prospect) that will help them in the long-term in exchange for some mid-term salary retention. After all, their window likely will not open up for another 4 or 5 seasons anyway.
Of course, with the Leafs currently taking advantage of LTIR relief at the moment, they would have to move an additional body in a subsequent deal to help them with cap compliance. We have seen first-hand, on a number of occasions, what Kyle Dubas and AGM Brandon Pridham are capable of in terms of making it all fit when everyone says it can't.
Honestly, this is one that feels as though it could be possible, even though it's highly unlikely. Again, I'm not sure it makes the Leafs better in the long-term, especially with new deals needed for Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner over the next 3 years. But it absolutely does make them better and more dangerous on the blueline immediately.
Reporter suggests that Erik Karlsson to the Leafs could work, but is it the right move?

Should the Leafs acquire Erik Karlsson at 50% retained from San Jose?

Yes27458.2 %
No19741.8 %
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