Until Erik Karlsson signs a long-term extension, rumors will continue to swirl about where the two-time Norris winning defense will land. He is, after all, one of the biggest free agents to hit the market in recent memory, and his addition to any roster has the potential to turn a good defensive corps into a league-leader.
This potential will be enticing to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have been connected to Karlsson for the better part of a year. Ever since he and Victor Hedman took pictures as pirates at the 2018 All-Star Game, fans and media alike have speculated about what the Swedish defender could bring to Tampa Bay.
Despite these connections, though, fans shouldn’t expect to see Karlsson in Lightning blue next season. In fact, given their current situation, pursuing the two-time Norris winning defender could quickly become a costly mistake.
Karlsson’s Greatness Doesn’t Offset Injuries
When healthy, there are few defensemen in the league as dominant as Karlsson. He is that rare talent that can both shut-down the opposition while racking up points of his own.
The problem is that Karlsson has rarely stayed healthy. Throughout his career, he has missed substantial time from both freak injuries and routine wear and tear that can beat down any player. For example, when the San Jose Sharks needed him most in the 2019 Western Conference Final, he was unable to play in Games 5 and 6.
With a core of pl
Lightning Can’t Afford Karlsson’s Contract
Given the Lightning’s current cap-crunch, first-year general m
With players like Nikita Kucherov and Ryan McDonagh receiving significant raises that kick in this offseason, and core pieces like Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy
Even if they were able to sign him, that cap hit could quickly become an anchor for the franchise, forcing the team to shed young talent like Anthony Cirelli, who will be due a pay increase in the coming years.
Lightning Won’t Sign Karlsson This Offseason
As free agency approaches, expect to hear a lot of noise about how the Lightning
But, much like the idea of John Tavares joining the Lightning last offseason, all this talk will ultimately turn into is pure speculation. Tampa Bay may like the idea of Karlsson on their roster, but they simply aren’t in the position to make it happen without risking a lot of the future.
Even if they could make it work, the Lightning
So, the Lightning should just stay clear of the incoming bidding war for Karlsson and focus on shoring up their already solid core. Sure, this isn’t the sexy thing to do, but it is the smart move that will set the franchise up for future success.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.