Detroit Red Wings: Why Erik Karlsson is not part of the ‘Yzerplan’

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

San Jose defenseman Erik Karlsson is a tremendous talent. As the lifeless Sharks trek towards a rebuild, general manager Mike Grier says he will listen to trade offers for the offensive-minded play-making defender. The Sharks are off to a 6-11-3 start to the season. Despite being an elite weapon on the backend, Karlsson doesn’t fit Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman’s rebuild plans. Better phrased as the ‘Yzerplan.’

As exciting as Karlsson is on the ice, adding the veteran defenseman doesn’t make sense at this time. Karlsson, 32, is a thoroughbred on the back end logging over 25 minutes of ice time per game over his career and doing just that again in 2022-23. Karlsson is owed $11.5 million per season over the next four years. He also possesses a no-movement clause in his contract, which limits San Jose’s options significantly when you also consider his elevated salary. Perhaps the Sharks would be willing to eat a percentage of his salary for an improved draft pick or better trade package of proven players, along with an abundance of talented prospects.

Karlsson is off to a career-high pace offensively, having recorded 29 points, including 11 goals over the first 21 games of the season. At this pace, Karlsson will shatter his career high of 82 points back in 2015-16.

The veteran defenseman recently played over 34 minutes in a game against the Minnesota Wild. So far this season, Karlsson is maintaining a Corsi For Percentage of 53.5%. A whopping 64.1% of his five-on-five shifts begin in the offensive zone. Karlsson’s Relative Corsi For Percentage during five-on-five play is a stellar 8.7 this season, up significantly from his respectable career average of 4.9.

The Detroit Red Wings should avoid trading for Erik Karlsson.

Again, Karlsson is a tremendous athlete. He’s enjoying a career year offensively, which is saying something when talking about a defenseman with 689 points over 858 career games. But Karlsson doesn’t fit what the Detroit Red Wings are trying to do. Before this season, Karlsson averaged 52.75 games played per season over the past four years. Durability is already a bit of a concern; how well will his body hold up in three or four years from now on the backend of his current contract?

Steve Yzerman has made strides overhauling the dumpster fire of a roster he inherited from Ken Holland. When Yzerman arrived back in Detroit, the cupboards were bare, and he’s made a conscious effort to replenish the teams’ prospect pool along with adding in a few veteran players that are not only financially affordable but productive.

Trending. Why an AHL stint may be best for Elmer Soderblom. light

The additions of David Perron, two years, $4.75 million Average Annual Value (AAV). Dominik Kubalik, two years $2.5 million AAV. Ben Chiarot, four years, $4.75 million, and Olli Maatta, one year, $2.25 million, are all very affordable deals, especially for the production Detroit is getting out of the group.

At this point, Detroit is not ready to subtract future assets, proven players, and the draft capital anticipated to acquire a player of Karlsson’s caliber. With the year Karlsson is having, San Jose will want the conversation with the Detroit Red Wings to begin with a player like Jonatan Berggren or Marco Kasper, along with a Tyler Bertuzzi or a Filip Hronek. Detroit is still two or three years away from becoming serious playoff contenders; that is when a deal of this nature needs to be made, not today.

The Detroit Red Wings also need to be cautious with where they invest their money. The organization needs to get a long-term deal done with Dylan Larkin at some point this season or before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Yzerman also needs to make a decision on Bertuzzi, who is also a pending free agent. Will Detroit look to lock the gritty forward up long-term or trade him for future assets leading up to the trade deadline? Plus, Detroit needs to budget for Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond in the coming years.