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Trade Grades: Input pouring in on Karlsson deal, but how do you rank it?

Penguins receiving praise for work on the Erik Karlsson trade

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2023 NHL Awards - Show Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It’s been a long off-season, but yesterday’s transaction changed everything for the Pittsburgh Penguins. 12 assets ended up getting flipped around between the Pens, San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens in a landmark trade. It marks the biggest literal trade in Pens’ history — as far as total number of pieces involved in a single deal, anyways.

On the ice, the impact could already be considered one of the most significant trades in franchise history. Time will tell if it’s remembered as fondly as Ron Francis from the Whalers (big shoes to fill!) but consider what happened as a result.

GM Kyle Dubas not only added a three-time and reigning Norris trophy winner, but he also shed four players from the roster that he inherited. Getting away from Jan Rutta, Jeff Petry and the notorious Mikael Granlund serves to cut ties with about half the players that former general manager Ron Hextall still had around from his stint as Pens’ GM.

Erasing the impact (or I suppose that could read damage) applied by Hextall was going to be a key to help the Pens start over and improve. That was a tidy piece of business to eliminate a lot of it by Dubas in one fell swoop.

Aside from that aspect, Pittsburgh got Erik Karlsson. It’s a risky move, but the Pens are playing with house money. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have won three Stanley Cups. Crosby has captained Canada to more international medals and trophies than you can shake a stick at. If they don’t win anything else for the rest of the illustrious careers, they’ve still won as much or more than 99.9999% of players to ever play pro hockey.

Making a big bold move to get Karlsson doesn’t extend the window of the current core, but does it prop it up a little more for the next couple of years? It’s hard to see how it hurts.

As such with a big trade, the internet loves to instantly assign grades. As you might imagine, the Pens made out well across many different outlets:

These outlets looked about as complete as a google search could offer by Sunday afternoon, I didn’t omit any bad grades or anything like that to frame a picture so much as to use the available information from fairly quality sources.

With that said, how do you think the Pens did?

Karlsson is 33. He’s had injury problems before. Even though he rocked it in 2022-23 to a Norris season, he’s had troubles and down years in the not-so-distant past. And the Pens are on the hook for a $10.0 annual salary for four years. That’s a big commitment and bet.

But it’s also a bet on one of the most talented and skilled players in the world. It’s hard to hit a home run if you don’t rear back and put some power into a swing. After yesterday, no one can accuse Kyle Dubas of not being ambitious enough to send out his predecessor’s disappointments and give it a go with a future Hall of Famer to join his core of other surefire future HOF’ers.

Not since Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables has someone grabbed a bunch of awesome but aging stars and seen if they could do still make some magic one more time. The idea worked so well that Expendables 4 is coming out in a few months. Similarly, the Pens are hoping for a fourth installment for Sid and company for themselves, in a manner of speaking.

Now that we’ve had a night to sleep on it, take it in and see what happened...What’s your grade for yesterday’s move?


Kyle Dubas nabbing Erik Karlsson for the trade maneuver he pulled off is worth the instant grade of:

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    (1961 votes)
  • 36%
    (1276 votes)
  • 5%
    (191 votes)
  • 0%
    (34 votes)
  • 0%
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    (20 votes)
3492 votes total Vote Now

On the topic of polls, check out the action here from exactly a month ago in early July. 83% of Pensburgh respondents had a “yes the Pens should” acquire Erik Karlsson, but nearly half that group (41%) thought that such a trade could not be completed — doubtlessly because of the very real and very burdensome salary cap constraints that existed. It took complicated, big trade to pull it off, that’s understandably difficult to picture or count on all the pieces coming together.

That could also explain the celebratory mood and rare mid-summer excitement that has set in since the announcement. The GM delivered something that almost everyone wanted, but was clearly a big challenge and impressive feat to actually deliver results. If nothing else, it’s a feather in Dubas’ cap that he found a way to make it happen.