Sharks’ Karlsson Trade Continues to Bite Nearly Five Years Later

The San Jose Sharks finished the 2022-23 season in a somewhat historical way, or rather, one of their players did. Erik Karlsson, former captain of the Ottawa Senators and two-time Norris Trophy winner, struggled as a member of the Sharks for a long time. Karlsson had a few down years following his trade out of Ottawa due to repeated injuries. However, this season saw his return to form, and he managed to prove many doubters wrong in spectacular fashion.

In 82 games, Karlsson put up 101 points, which absolutely shattered his regular season-best of 82 points set in 2015-16. Despite how terrible the Sharks were for the majority of the year, he singlehandedly found a way to stay on top of defensive scoring. However, despite his great year, the trade still leaves a sour taste in the mouths of fans. Now that the season has ended, it seems the trade has still managed to age poorly despite Karlsson’s attempt to even the score.

Sharks Desperately Needed Tim Stutzle

At the time of the Karlsson trade, the most outright promising piece the Sharks sent to the Senators was Josh Norris. However, they also sent a conditional first-round pick as a part of this trade. The condition outlined that if the Sharks made the 2019 Playoffs, the Senators would receive an unprotected first-round pick in 2020. As fate would have it, they made a run to the Conference Final that year, which gave the Senators the pick. However, when the Sharks embarrassingly missed the 2020 Playoffs, that pick became Tim Stutzle.

Tim Stutzle Ottawa Senators
Tim Stutzle, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Alexis Lafreniere was considered to be the best player in the 2020 Draft class at the time, that narrative has shifted recently to the belief that Stutzle was, in fact, the best. His numbers would reinforce this idea as well. This season, Stutzle put up 90 points in 78 games at the age of 21. By all accounts, he will be a massive piece of the young Senators core going into the future. However, he could have been the same thing for the Sharks.

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Obviously, hindsight is 20/20. The Sharks had no idea Stutzle would be the player the Senators selected in 2020. However, the signs were there that the core was beginning to age. They took a gamble and paid an incredibly hefty price. Stutzle could have been a refreshing face to an old team, perhaps even allowing them to find the motivation to make the playoffs again. That being said, that reality never happened, and the Sharks will forever have to live with that.

Karlsson Heated Up When the Sharks Couldn’t Return the Favor

Regardless of whether the Sharks were able to get Stutzle, they managed to have Karlsson during his best season ever. While this fact has absolutely evened the trade up a bit, having a superstar defenseman only does so much when the rest of the team is unable to make the playoffs. The fact of the matter is that no matter who the Sharks have, at the end of the day, they are unable to support Karlsson.

Erik Karlsson San Jose Sharks
Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The inability to support Karlsson has led to numerous trade rumors surrounding him. Of course, he has stated that he is perfectly content being in San Jose, but the team has recognized the fact that they are not playoff ready. They made this abundantly clear by trading Timo Meier at the 2023 trade deadline. However, despite what Karlsson has stated, he will likely be moved out of San Jose at some point, which means the Sharks have the potential to lose a trade involving him twice.

Related: Karlsson Content to Remain in San Jose

This offseason will provide the most insight into what the Sharks’ plans will be with Karlsson. While it is possible he will be in another city when October rolls around, his large cap hit might force a bit more time and thought to be put into a trade. However, for now, it definitely looks like the Sharks lost this trade in every way possible. Maybe they can redeem themselves in the future, but nothing can bring back the five seasons the Sharks have lost.

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