Many fans say that the Detroit Red Wings need to add a star-type player. Many, including myself, feel that said star player should be a forward, but there is also a significant need for a right-handed defenseman. Erik Karlsson is a star player and produces offense like a star forward, so he does check a couple of the boxes.
Recently, Shayna Goldman and Harman Dayal of The Athletic (subscription) named the Detroit Red Wings a possible trade destination for star defenseman Erik Karlsson. The pair admit Detroit is not a contender but a team on the rise, and while adding a defenseman in free agency is a logical route, the talent level of said player won’t be nearly as impactful as trading for Karlsson.
I will say this, Detroit does love their Swedish-born players. Karlsson, 33, Norris candidate, is coming off a career year where he amassed a stellar 101 points over 82 games for the lifeless San Jose Sharks this past season. The veteran defender would have easily been Detroit’s top point-getter by 22 points ahead of Dylan Larkin’s 79. Karlsson’s 25 goals would have placed him second on the Red Wings behind Larkin’s 32 and one ahead of David Perron’s 24.
The Detroit Red Wings are considered a trade destination for Erik Karlsson.
The elephant in the room is Karlsson’s massive contract. The mobile right-hander is due a whopping $11.5 million per season over the next four years, which takes him to 37 years old. Now, his style of play may allow him to perform at a higher level late into his 30s as he avoids a lot of punishment not being a defensive defender. Durability is also a concern. Yes, Karlsson played the entire season this past year, but it had been the first time he was able to play 70-plus games in a season since 2017-18. This does include the COVID-19 shortened campaign, so removing that, it’s basically the first time in four seasons.
Lastly, Detroit will need to give up a significant package of prospects and picks in a deal to land Karlsson. Part of the package must also be substantial enough to entice the Sharks to retain a large portion of Karlsson’s salary. A couple of players that San Jose will likely be looking for in return, knowing Marco Kasper and Simon Edvinsson won’t be available, is a combination of Jonatan Berggren, Joe Veleno, Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen, Amadeus Lombardi, William Wallinder, and Albert Johansson. The Detroit Red Wings sit with four first-round picks over the next two years and three second-round choices later this month.
The Detroit Red Wings have many needs this summer, and although I hadn’t been fond of adding Karlsson in the past for a couple of reasons, I am starting to warm up to the idea. His elite-level skill set would solve a few of Detroit’s problems.
Detroit must create more offense, even if it comes from the backend. They also need to be far more efficient with their power-play opportunities; Karlsson will also help with that. This past season, Detroit’s power play was vastly improved from the prior year, mostly thanks to the additions of Perron and Dominik Kubalik, plus a late-season surge in production from veteran Alex Chaisson. Still, looking at the season as a whole, the Red Wings were far too inconsistent with the man advantage. This past season, the Red Wings’ power play operated at a 21.11% clip, which was nearly the same as the league’s mean of 21.31%.
Adding a player like Karlsson will be like adding 27 power-play points over the course of the year. It also will allow Moritz Seider to focus more on his five-on-five play and being utilized as a penalty killer even more often, as Karlsson will naturally soak up the bulk of the power play opportunities as the lone defender with the first group.
The Detroit Red Wings could field a top-four of Jake Walman with Seider and the ever-so-steady Olli Maatta paired with Karlsson. Of course, head coach Derek Lalonde could also play Ben Chiarot with Karlsson, but with how defensive sound Maatta is, he’d be the perfect candidate to pair with the thoroughbred, eager to rush Karlsson. Just think of how well Maatta and Filip Hronek played together last season. It would be the same concept with Karlsson.
That leaves a potential third pairing of Simon Edvinsson and Chiarot. I know exactly the face many of you are making regarding Chiarot, but I have hope playing in a lesser role against third and fourth lines and less ice time will do him a world of good. I do not believe Chiarot is the second coming of Nick Lidstrom, but I also refuse to accept he’s as bad as he performed last season.