Last month (Oct. 27), NHL insider Pierre LeBrun reported that the San Jose Sharks are open to hearing offers for just about every player on their roster besides Tomas Hertl. That naturally has since made the Sharks one of the most-talked-about teams in the rumor mill, and general manager (GM) Mike Grier has now added more fuel to the fire. On Tuesday (Nov. 16), Grier confirmed to NHL.com’s Nicholas Cotsonika that he will be listening to any trade offers for star defenseman Erik Karlsson. In my opinion, Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman should take advantage of this and make a push to acquire him.
Karlsson has been superb this season and is showing signs of his past self, as he has 10 goals and 24 points in just 18 games. Adding this kind of offense from the point would be massive for the Red Wings, and it could be exactly what helps them cement themselves as a legitimate playoff team. With that, Karlsson would provide them with an experienced star who would help mentor the team’s young players and prospects. If the Sharks retain a portion of the Swedish defenseman’s $11.5 million cap hit, this would surely be an avenue worth considering.
Let’s look at what it could cost the Red Wings to acquire him.
The Red Wings would need to move out salary to acquire Karlsson, and one NHL-caliber player who stands out in this scenario is Pius Suter. The 26-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) and carries a $3.25 million cap hit. Due to the Red Wings’ offseason of spending, his placement on the club’s depth chart has dropped and he has been playing fourth-line minutes. As a result, his offensive numbers have taken a bit of a hit in 2022-23 thus far, as he has just three goals and three assists in his first 15 games.
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I think Suter is a player who would benefit from a change of scenery, and heading to San Jose could be fantastic for him. With the Sharks, he would surely compete for a spot in their top six, and this is especially true when noting that he plays both center and wing. He would be a notable upgrade over Matt Nieto at second-line left wing and could thrive as a linemate with Sharks captain Logan Couture. With that, it’s clear that he would fit beautifully on their power play, as he can contribute quite well offensively when playing at his highest potential.
Suter likely can bounce back, too, as he is coming off of a strong 36-point campaign in 82 games with the Red Wings last season. Furthermore, as a rookie with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2020-21, he had 14 goals and 27 points in just 55 games. Therefore, he has shown he can contribute well while in a bigger role, and being dealt to the Sharks would once again offer that.
To acquire Karlsson, the Red Wings would need to trade a defenseman from their crowded blue line. One player who could make sense in this hypothetical swap is young defenseman, Gustav Lindstrom. The 24-year-old emerged as a legitimate NHLer last season, where he had a goal and 13 points in 63 games. However, he has had some struggles in 2022-23 so far, as he has just an assist and a minus-5 rating in 13 games. With Detroit getting healthier, his spot in their lineup is not a guarantee, so perhaps he would be a player who Yzerman would be willing to part ways with if it means landing a star like Karlsson.
With the Sharks, Lindstrom would have a real shot at playing on their second pairing. This, in turn, could help the 2017 second-round pick take that next step in his development and blossom into a legitimate top-four defenseman. With that, given the Sharks’ weak defensive depth even with Karlsson, he would likely be utilized on both their power play and penalty killing units if acquired.
Although there would be some risk in trading a young player like Lindstrom, it would be worth moving him to bring in Karlsson. In my opinion, he would be a very nice fit in San Jose’s lineup, so I’d expect Grier to have him as one of his targets in a hypothetical Karlsson blockbuster.
One prospect who could help complete this move is Donovan Sebrango. The 2020 third-round pick is developing his game quite nicely in the American Hockey League (AHL) and has the potential to blossom into a top-four, shutdown defenseman at the NHL level. With that, he is showing great signs of improvement with the Grand Rapids Griffins this season thus far. After recording a seven-point campaign in 65 games with the AHL squad last season, he already has three goals and an assist in just 10 games this season. This is quite encouraging to see, and it could be exactly what makes him a target for Grier.
Sebrango has been noted for his extremely reliable defensive play, and that is quite impressive when noting that he is only 20 years old. As he continues to mature, he should be able to form a very good NHL career due to his excellent dependability and strong physical play. Although he is the exact opposite of a player like Karlsson, he is exactly the kind of prospect that a team like the Sharks should add.
When looking at the Sharks’ defensive group, I’d argue that Sebrango could make a case to make their NHL roster upon his arrival. He could compete with players like Radim Simek, Nick Cicek, Jaycob Megna, and Markus Nutivaara for a spot on the bottom pairing. Yet, even if he stayed in the AHL with the San Jose Barracuda, he would be a great long-term addition to a team that is heading toward a rebuild.
Along with these assets, the Red Wings would likely need to part ways with a first-round pick (top-10 protected) and a third-round pick if San Jose retains a good portion of Karlsson’s salary. Yet, this is a move that would be worth it if Karlsson continues to play like a superstar and Norris Trophy-level defenseman. The veteran would of course need to approve the trade due to his no-movement clause (NMC), but given how much Detroit has improved this season, it surely seems possible that he’d be open to a move there. Nevertheless, we will have to wait and see if these two teams strike a deal from here.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, & Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHL Trade Rumors.