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Penguins & Kyle Dubas Already Regretting Karlsson Trade

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When general manager Kyle Dubas made his first big move with the Pittsburgh Penguins by bringing in defenseman Erik Karlsson in a trade with the San Jose Sharks (and Montreal Canadiens), the hope was that he would help bring another deep playoff push for an aging Penguins team.

But almost two-thirds of the way through the 2023-24 season, the Penguins find themselves out the outside looking in for a playoff spot (currently sitting nine points out of a wildcard spot) and are at a possible crossroads going forward. Tied in with the situation for the organization is the fact that Karlsson, the 2023 Norris Trophy winner for the NHL’s best defenseman has not been the player that many expected he would be as a Penguin. So the question is, does Dubas have buyer’s remorse with Karlsson?

Revisiting the Trade

When the three-team trade between the Penguins, Sharks, and Canadiens went down in August, it saw a total of nine players and three draft picks exchange hands. The Penguins gave up forwards Mikael Granlund (San Jose) and Nathan Legare (Montreal), defensemen Jeff Petry (Montreal), Jan Rutta (San Jose), and goaltender Casey DeSmith (Montreal). None of these players have lit the world on fire with their new teams, with both Petry and DeSmith being traded once again to different teams in Detroit and Vancouver, respectively.

Erik Karlsson Pittsburgh Penguins
Erik Karlsson, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In return, the Penguins acquired the 33-year-old Karlsson, forward Dillon Hamaliuk, and Rem Pitlick. The only player who has made a difference for the team has been Karlsson, as Pitlick was traded to Chicago, and Hamaliuk has spent the majority of the season in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers. The team also acquired a 2026 third-round pick from the Sharks as well.

But where the trade could end up getting dicy and questionable for Dubas is the fact that they also traded a 2024 first-round pick to the Sharks in the deal as well. The pick is a top-10 protected pick, meaning that if the Penguins find themselves with a top-10 selection this year, they keep the pick. If this ends up being the case, then the team will end up sending their 2025 first-round pick to the Sharks instead. But as of now, the Penguins find themselves projected to pick at number 13. As a team that finds themselves toward the bottom of the league’s farm system rankings by our own Logan Horn (27th), losing a first-round pick at all is a major hit to take.

Penguins and Karlsson Have Been Underwhelming

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