Rob Rossi of The Athletic wrote a column today with regard to the Erik Karlsson trade saga. While many of the updates offered were hardly surprising, there were a few pieces of information that gave some insights into how the Pittsburgh Penguins became involved in the trade talks. Pittsburgh always seemed like a team that couldn’t squeeze a player with Karlsson’s cap number into their lineup, but based on the recent reporting it appears that they are the front-runner.
Rossi begins the article by dropping the news that Kyle Dubas reportedly identified Erik Karlsson as a trade target while he was in the interview process with Penguins ownership. Now, aside from the Tristan Jarry extension to this point much of Dubas’ work has been to tinker around the edges of the Penguins lineup. But it does appear that he’s built up the club’s depth in the bottom six and their defense core for the possibility that some players could be shipped out very soon.
Another newer piece of information that Rossi mentions is that Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang have reportedly endorsed the potential Karlsson acquisition and in Letang’s case, he’s even agreed to make changes to his own role within the Penguins lineup. If a potential trade were to go through, Letang would remain as Pittsburgh’s number one defenseman, however, Letang would change his powerplay role to allow Karlsson to quarterback the Penguin’s powerplay.
San Jose was also reportedly interested in defenseman Marcus Pettersson being part of a potential blockbuster, however, Dubas has squashed that notion thus far as head coach Mike Sullivan sees Pettersson and newly acquired defender Ryan Graves as the top two options for the left side of Pittsburgh’s defensive group. Pettersson was terrific for Pittsburgh last season after seeing his name all over trade rumors boards for much of the summer of 2022.
Lastly, Dubas apparently wants to put top-5 protection on any first-round pick he trades in a Karlsson deal and has reportedly floated the idea of putting other conditions such as home-ice advantage on lower-round draft picks that could be involved in the deal.
While it appears that the Penguins are still the front-runner to land the reigning Norris Trophy winner, it doesn’t appear that a trade is imminent anytime soon. Pittsburgh would have to navigate an awful lot of moving parts to push the trade through, however, as we’ve seen in the past these trades can come together quickly when teams are motivated to make the move happen. Regardless of the outcome, it does look like Dubas has plans to continue his makeover of the Penguins roster before the start of the 2023-24 season.