A little under three years ago, the San Jose Sharks made a franchise-altering trade, acquiring defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators in one of the biggest deals of the decade.
At the time, Karlsson was one of the league’s best defenders and the Sharks had consistently been a strong team in the Western Conference but just couldn’t get over the hump to win a Stanley Cup. So when Karlsson was available, the Sharks did what it took to acquire him, sending a massive return to the Senators.
It’s interesting looking back, given that when the trade was made, the majority of hockey fans felt as though Ottawa didn’t get enough back in the trade. For reference, this was how the deal worked out:
As we know, Balcers ended up returning to San Jose on waivers, and Dylan DeMelo was later dealt to Winnipeg for a third-round pick, which the Senators used to select goalie Leevi Merilainen. The 2019 second-round pick was also packaged with a third-round pick to move up in the draft and select goalie Mads Sogaard at 37th overall. Finally, the Senators selected Tim Stutzle with the third-overall pick last year, which was also acquired as part of the deal. So here are the pieces that the Senators still have as a result of the trade:
F- Tim Stutzle
F- Josh Norris
F- Chris Tierney
G- Mads Sogaard
G- Leevi Merilainen
2021 2nd Round Pick
The 'not-so-great' return for Ottawa has turned out to be the exact opposite of what we expected. Nobody was betting on the Sharks to be as bad as they were in the 2019-20 season but as a result, the Senators received the third-overall pick and were able to pick forward Tim Stutzle. As just an 19-year-old in the NHL this season, Stutzle scored 12 goals and 29 points in 53 games and projects to become a top-line forward for Ottawa.
Josh Norris, who had pretty average numbers in his first NCAA season before being dealt to Ottawa, looks like he could now be nearly an equally important piece for the Senators. In his rookie season this year, Norris had 17 goals and 35 points in 56 games, a pace of 25 goals and 51 points per 82 games.
Chris Tierney still provides solid depth for Ottawa up front and Sogaard and Merilainen are both promising goaltending prospects. Again, the Senators still have San Jose’s second-round pick this year as well.
Then looking at it from the Sharks’ point of view:
After a solid playoff run in 2019 during Karlsson’s first year with the team, the Sharks signed the defender to a massive eight-year extension worth $11.5 million per year, getting the highest AAV of any defenseman in the NHL, a record that he still holds.
Things have been downhill ever since though, and after a poor 2019-20 season, Karlsson was terrible this year, not only being a defensive liability, but also producing at the worst points per game pace of his entire career. At 31 years old, Karlsson has another six years remaining on his contract, while occupying over 14 per cent of the team’s cap space.
Just three years after the trade, the Sharks would probably love to get out from under Karlsson’s contract and the Senators look poised to have a good, young team in the years to come, led in part by Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris. The Sharks also lack the depth that Tierney and DeMelo could have been providing for the team, plus, the Senators have the $11.5 million in cap space that the Sharks aren't fortunate enough to have at their disposal.
While at the time it seemed as though the Senators didn’t get enough, it’s hard not to look at the assets they acquired from the Karlsson trade and wonder where the Sharks would be if they had never made the trade.
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