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Did Carolina take themselves out of the Erik Karlsson derby?

The Hurricanes sign Tony DeAngelo, could that mean they’re moving on from Erik Karlsson

Carolina Hurricanes v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Much like the Pittsburgh Penguins could be stringing along the timing of Drew O’Connor’s impending contract in order to get pieces in place to go after Erik Karlsson in a trade, another potential suitor for Karlsson may have made a key timing move of their own yesterday as an indicator of their future team and plans.

The Carolina Hurricanes signed free agent defenseman Tony DeAngelo to a one-year deal. That end result has been rumored for a long time now, with the Canes allegedly close to trade for DeAngelo last month before the draft but were reportedly held up by a clause in the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement about re-acquiring a player within a year where retained salary is involved.

After the year passed, the intrigue kicked up when deal still wasn’t completed. Either Carolina didn’t want DeAngelo at a $2.5 million cap hit (Philadelphia could only retain a maximum of 50% of his $5.0 million cap hit) or perhaps the Canes were more interested in chasing down Karlsson. Have they now given up that avenue and will move forward with other options? It’s an intriguing question in the never-ending saga for the summer 2023 Karlsson Derby.

And it very well could be the case now the offensive-minded defender is back in Carolina. DeAngelo put up an impressive 54 points in 61 games with the Canes back in 2021-22. Like Karlsson, he is a right shot. On the surface, getting DeAngelo could well mean that Carolina’s pursuit of Karlsson is wrapped up.

Then again, getting DeAngelo alone does not have to be a clear signal that Carolina is out on Karlsson. The Hurricanes have been rumored to be shopping Brett Pesce, who is one season away from free agency. If Carolina opts to trade Pesce (who, like Jeff Petry has a 15-team no trade list) then their need for another right-shot in Karlsson would be right back in effect.

Subtract Pesce from their roster and they would still have Brent Burns, DeAngelo and youngsters Jalen Chatfield and Dylan Coghlin on the right side - which is workable but perhaps not a step back from the Burns/Pesce depth they had 24 hours ago.

But if Carolina is fine with keeping Pesce in his walk year, a Burns/Pesce/DeAngelo right side of the defense (plus more depth coming from the others) looks like something a contending team could certainly work with as far as being a finished product. Reportedly the ideal outcome for the Hurricanes is re-signing Pesce, which is what they have been working on.

From this DeAngelo addition alone, the signs could read whatever one wants to see in them. Is it a move on the surface level alone to grab a player who worked out well in the past? Could be. Or is it a potential harbinger of moves to come that could include Pesce and/or Karlsson? Also maybe.

At this point for the whole summer saga of the Karlsson trade, it’s only fitting that it’s more mixed signals and possible movement either further from or closer to the big trade.

Either way, this transaction ought to have a byproduct to amp up the pressure on San Jose even more. The Sharks, naturally, want to retain as little as possible on Karlsson’s contract when they shed him. Carolina’s desperation level at this point should be non-existent — they need to chase Karlsson now less than before. That’s good for Carolina, bad for San Jose.

In that light, this signing can’t be very negative to Pittsburgh’s perspective at the moment either. If Carolina has removed themselves from the mix, the already limited list of teams involved would be reduced by what is believed to be the biggest serious competition.

Over the weekend, Karlsson told a Swedish newspaper he has talked to representatives from the Penguins, Hurricanes, Seattle Kraken and Toronto Maple Leafs. SJ has given him permission to do so, since via Karlsson’s no movement clause he will have to agree to the destination of whatever trade the Sharks might get.

The Toronto fit doesn’t make a lot of sense, they’re already fairly significantly over the salary cap and short of a lot of San Jose retention on Karlsson, it’s difficult to see a workable and realistic path for them to complete the trade. Seattle would be more of a contender in the race, but aren’t a purely natural fit either to absorb Karlsson.

That brings it down to the Pens and Canes as the two teams deepest in the mix at the moment. Signing Tony DeAngelo doesn’t necessarily back Carolina all the way out of the chase, but it sure could be angling the Hurricanes to move on from negotiating with the Sharks about Karlsson.

Which then might only leave one..