Sharks GM taken to the cleaners in both Karlsson and Burns trades in back-to-back summers

Ryan Smitheram
August 7, 2023  (9:34)

In back-to-back off-seasons San Jose GM Mike Grier has traded away Norris Trophy winning defensemen. Last season he sent Brent Burns to Carolina and just yesterday, he sent Erik Karlsson to Pittsburgh. In both instances, the return that San Jose got was underwhelming to say the least, considering the caliber of players Burns and Karlsson are. With the Sharks deciding they were going to rebuild when they named Mike Grier their new GM last off-season, Burns and now Karlsson admitted they did not want to be part of it and wanted a chance to win a Stanley Cup instead.

When the Sharks traded Burns to Carolina last year, they received Steven Lorentz, Eetu Mäkiniemi and a 2023 3rd round pick while retaining 34% of Burns' $8M annual salary over the final three years of his deal. Lorentz has always been a "late bloomer" and is a very serviceable middle-six or bottom-six forward. Mäkiniemi was a fourth round pick of the Canes in 2017 and the jury is still out on Jayden Perron who the Sharks selected with the 2023 3rd round pick. Yesterday, the Sharks received Pittsburgh's 2024 first round pick, which is top-10 protected, aging forward Mike Hoffman, 33 year-old defenseman Jan Rutta, and a cap dump in Mikael Granlund. Neither trade saw the Sharks get a top prospect or multiple picks and now everyone is asking why the return in each trade is so underwhelming.
For one, both players had no-trade clauses in their current contracts, so they had some control over where they ended up being traded. No-movement and/or no-trade clauses can and usually do impact the return teams receive. The second reason why the Sharks did not quite get the return they were hoping for in either trade, specifically the Karlsson trade, is due to the public comments Grier made. During all of the trade speculation around Karlsson, Grier publicly stated that the Sharks would not be retaining a significant amount of his remaining salary over the remaining 4-years of his current contract. That ended up being the case as the Sharks are only retaining 13% ($1.5M) per year of Karlsson's salary.
A third reason why the return the Sharks have received is underwhelming is due to the over-valuing of both Burns and Karlsson. Yes, they are excellent players and have established pedigrees and are two of the better defensemen in the game currently, but they are aging. Teams are wary of acquiring aging players with significant amounts of term left given how fast the game is nowadays and how quickly players in their mid to late 30's decline. The initial return the Sharks were seeking for Karlsson was reported to be multiple picks and prospects, which they got neither of in the end, as the experienced GM's waited out Grier and the Sharks. Grier likely could have moved Karlsson at the trade deadline this past season for more of a return, (reports indicated the Oilers were willing to part with significant assets), but Grier chose to stand pat. As pressure to trade both players over the past couple of off-seasons mounted on Grier, his counterparts held firm on their offers.
In what were supposed to be franchise altering trades for the Sharks and were supposed to help them rebuild, veteran GMs took advantage of Grier still learning the ropes and walked away with Norris-winning defensemen for a much lower cost than Grier had hoped. Of course, had he agreed to retain up to 50%, the return would have been much more significant. Perhaps just unloading $10M of Karlsson's deal for 4 more seasons was enough for Grier to justify taking as much of a hit as he did in this instance.
Grier also traded Adin Hill to Vegas for a 4th round pick. We all know how that one turned out as well.
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Sharks GM taken to the cleaners in both Karlsson and Burns trades in back-to-back summers

Did Mike Grier get enough for either of Karlsson or Burns in their respective trades?

No13466.3 %
Yes6833.7 %
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