You’ve got to hand it to Kyle Dubas; he’s aggressive and determined to put a Stanley Cup contender on the ice wherever he is working. The former Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager and current Pittsburgh Penguins President of Hockey Operations has elected to go all in one last time with a Penguins team built around Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. Something that will undoubtedly make Detroit Red Wings fans nauseous.
Sure, the Detroit Red Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2008 Stanley Cup final thanks to some magnificent goaltending from Chris Osgood and the stellar play of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and captain Nick Lidstrom. But Detroit Red Wings fans (rightfully so) can’t get the bad taste of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals out of their mouths. The Red Wings, up three games to two, had the Penguins against the ropes in Pittsburgh ahead of game six but lost 2-1. Detroit would then fall at home in game seven, losing yet again 2-1 with lady luck not on their side late as Lidstrom rang the crossbar in the dying seconds of the game. Also, Maxime Talbot, who scored both Penguins goals, quickly became public enemy No. 2 behind Crosby in the eyes of Detroit Red Wings fans.
That 2009 championship sparked a Pens dynasty that Red Wings fans can begrudgingly appreciate knowing they’d enjoyed the same success for a decade-plus leading up to it.
A familiar foe of the Detroit Red Wings has elected to go all in for one last run at the Stanley Cup.
So, despite an aging Crosby (36) and Malkin (37), the Penguins are angling to make another run at Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2023-24. Dubas just made a blockbuster trade to add Erik Karlsson and also cleaned up a mess left behind by former Penguins GM Ron Hextall. Dubas added a Norris Trophy defenseman coming off a career year in San Jose, plus he was able to shed a whopping $28 million in cap hit money over the next two seasons.
This three-team deal sent Karlsson along with forward Rem Pitlick, forward Dillon Hamaliuk, and San Jose’s 2026 third-round draft pick to the Penguins. The Sharks received Pittsburgh’s 2024 first-round draft pick (top-10 protected), forward Mikael Granlund, forward Mike Hoffman, and defenseman Jan Rutta. Montreal was the third team involved, and they garnered Pittsburgh’s 2025 second-round draft pick, defenseman Jeff Petry, goaltender Casey DeSmith, and forward Nathan Legare in return.
Karlsson had been someone I wavered on all of last season as somebody the Detroit Red Wings should consider adding amid all of the trade talks or continue to avoid. Karlsson is coming off a 25-goal, 101-point season despite being 33 years old. The dynamic Swedish-born defender would have slotted in perfectly behind Moritz Seider and given the Red Wings a plethora of offensive from the backend. Plus, in Detroit, his situational defensive responsibilities could have been limited with the emergence of Seider. Does Karlsson fit Detroit’s rebuild timeline? No, not exactly, but could Karlsson still be a useful piece three years later? His style of play in the ‘new’ NHL will allow him to be very productive into his late 30s.
In the long run, avoiding Karlsson will likely be a wise move for Steve Yzerman and co., as the organization needs to spend what would be Karlsson’s cap hit on extending Seider and Lucas Raymond to long-term deals. Detroit is still a few years away from contending, but I hate to admit it, but I admire Dubas’ willingness to push his chips to the center of the table for one last run build around a couple (maybe more) future Hall Of Famers. And wouldn’t it be hysterical if he were to win a cup in Pittsburgh after leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs in what was an ugly divorce? Toronto fans who haven’t seen a championship since 1967 would be beside themselves, and as much as I dislike Crosby and the Penguins, seeing Leafs fans continue to suffer might just be worth it.