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Buffalo Sabres

Karlsson Not A Fit For Sabres Even If Sharks Retain



The Buffalo Sabres are looking to add a veteran defenseman to propel the club into the postseason for the first time since 2011. They have the young assets and the cap room to make it possible, and they would be foolish to not explore the possibility of acquiring this year’s likely Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the Sharks listened to offers for Karlsson before the March 3 trade deadline this season, but the 33-year-old’s $11.5 million cap hit and four years remaining on his deal provided significant impediments. LeBrun indicated that there is mutual interest between Sharks GM Mike Grier and Karlsson’s representatives on getting a deal done to a team where he can win his elusive first Stanley Cup, but with a no-movement clause, it will have to be to a destination of Karlsson’s choosing.

San Jose Hockey Now’s Sheng Peng speculated on 10 teams that might be in a position to make a trade for Karlsson and listed the Buffalo Sabres as one of the potential destinations. While the Sabres have around $17 million in cap space and need a right-handed Karlsson partner for Owen Power, there are a number of factors that don’t make a deal between the Sabres and Sharks likely.

Reasons Why Karlsson And Buffalo Are Not A Good Fit

  1. The Sharks according to both LeBrun and Peng are willing to retain salary on Karlsson’s deal, but for that to work for Buffalo it would probably have to be close to 50% of his $11.5 million cap hit since it is expected that Rasmus Dahlin will be signing an extension in excess of $10 million per season and a bridge deal for Power may be close to what Dahlin is making on his current three-year deal.
  2. Stylistically Karlsson is not the best fit for either the offensive-minded Dahlin or the sophomore Power. His best years in Ottawa were spent with a more defensive-minded partner in Marc Methot, and that appears to be the case with Dahlin and Mattias Samuelsson. Putting Karlsson with either Sabres top picks would almost be counterproductive since there is only one puck. Buffalo having an interest in a more two-way blueliner in Brett Pesce make more sense.
  3. Even with a sizable salary reduction from $11.5 million to a lower amount, the four remaining years on Karlsson’s deal could be another hurdle. Projecting out, Dahlin (presumably) and Samuelsson would be locked up on their long-term deals. If Power signs a three-year bridge, that would expire the same year that Karlsson’s deal does. But if the Sabres get the Calder Trophy nominee signed for more than three, it will mean allocating a sizable chunk of the cap on four defensemen and Karlsson’s age and injury history have to be taken into account.
  4. Although LeBrun indicated that Karlsson is prepared to be flexible about his destination (and was reportedly willing to go to Edmonton at the deadline), it is unknown whether he would be willing to accept a trade to Buffalo.