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Flashback Friday: The Erik Karlsson trade

It’s hard to believe, but five years ago next month, the San Jose Sharks made a massive splash and landed Erik Karlsson. Fear the Fin can’t afford to wait until the actual anniversary of Sept. 13 to run this flashback since, by then, we might have already said farewell to EK65.

So, let’s look back at the Karlsson trade and what it did for the Sharks.

Our former fearless leader Sie Morely did a great breakdown of the Karlsson trade and what the addition and subtractions meant for the Sharks. If you want to stroll further down memory lane, start there. At the time, Karlsson was a two-time Norris Trophy winner (he’s a three-timer now) and despite inquiries from the Ottawa Senators, the Sharks did not have to give up top prospects like Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl to get Karlsson. A big win.

However, there were players and picks moved to acquire Karlsson.

What the Sharks lost in the Karlsson trade and where are they now?

As with most major deals of this magnitude, there were a lot of prospects and picks traded. We’ll do our best to take a look

2020 First-Round Pick
Hubris will bite you every time and it did this time for the Sharks. The biggest loss for the Sharks was the team’s first-round pick. There were conditions but the pick was unprotected. Unprotected! Obviously, then General Manager Doug Wilson never thought it was a gamble to trade away the first round-pick.

The Sharks missed the playoffs in 2020 and finished near the bottom of the league. Thus, that first-round pick that was supposed to be in the late teens or early 20s, turned into the third pick in the 2020 draft.

With the pick, the Ottawa Senators drafted promising youngster Tim Stutzle. Stutzle almost immediately jumped into the NHL — he had an injury at the start of the season and needed to get healthy first. In February 2021, Stutzle claimed the NHL’s Rookie of the Month honors.

In his three year NHL career, Stutzle has played 210 games and has 177 points (73 G, 104 A).

Ouch.

2019 Second-Round Pick
This is where things get a little convoluted when exploring the exact results of the trade. Ottawa used the second-round pick it received from San Jose (44th overall) and bundled it with the team’s 83rd pick to get the Carolina Hurricanes’ 37th pick int he 2019 draft.

The Hurricanes used the San Jose pick to draft Jamieson Rees, a Canadian forward currently playing for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.

Meanwhile, Ottawa used its higher pick to draft Mads Sogaard, a 22-year-old goalie who split time between the Sentaors and its AHL affiliate last season. Sogaard played 19 games in the NHL in 2022-23 and finished the season with a 3.32 goals against average and a .889 save percentage.

2021 Second-Round Pick
And then there’s the second-round pick in 2021, acquired by the Senators when the Sharks signed Karlsson to a contract extension. The Senators used the pick to draft Zack Ostapchuk at 39th overall.

Ostapchuk is a winger expected to play for the Belleville Senators in the AHL this season. The 20-year-old had an excellent season in the WHL last season, where he captained the Vancouver Giants. Ostapchuk had 29 points (10 G, 19 A) in 21 games before he went to the Winnipeg Ice where he had 38 points (21 G, 17 A) in 34 games. In the playoffs, he continued his nearly point per game pace, registering 15 points (9 G, 6 A) in 18 games.

Josh Norris
As for the known quantities, Sharks fans should shed a tear for what Josh Norris could have meant to the Sharks today. Norris was San Jose’s first-round pick in 2019 and was a prospect at the time of the trade.

As of this writing, the 24-year-old is the top-line center for the Sens. He has played 133 NHL games with 93 points (54 G, 39 A) and the numbers might be better if he weren’t dealing with injuries. In other words, the Sharks made a good pick in Norris; sadly, fans won’t get to experience the thrill of that firsthand.

Dylan DeMelo
When Dylan DeMelo was traded, he was a reliable bottom-pair defenseman for the Sharks. He continues to fill that role throughout the league. DeMelo played two seasons for Ottawa after the trade and has played the last four seasons with the Winnipeg Jets.

He’s still not a prolific scorer from the backend, but he held his own last season. In 75 games, DeMelo had 27 points (6 G, 21 A).

Chris Tierney
“Cobra,” as he was fondly called by Sharks fans, will be missed for his impact during a pivotal point in the franchise’s history. Chris Tierney was there for all four rounds of the 2015-16 playoffs, making an impact on the ice as a role player with 9 points.

After the trade, Tierney spent four seasons with the Senators, but his play and ice time gradually petered off after that first season in Ottawa. In 2018-19, Tierney played 81 games for the Sens, registering 48 points (9 G, 39 A). Tierney has been a journeyman of sorts this past season, splitting time between the Florida Panthers and the Montreal Canadiens.

Tierney signed a one-year, two-way contract with the New Jersey Devils this offseason.

Rudolfs Balcers
Balcers was another young prospect that showed great promise, but unlike Norris, he never truly found his way in the NHL. After the trade, Balcers played a few seasons with the Senators, though he was in and out of the lineup in part due to injury.

In 2021, the Sens placed Balcers on waivers and the Sharks snagged him for nothing. Balcers played the rest of the season for the Sharks and then a subsequent season in teal.

However, when General Manager Mike Grier took over in 2022, it was determined that Balcers did not fit into what Grier was trying to do with the team. He was put on unconditional waivers and the team bought out his contract. San Jose is still feeling the impact of the deal today. There’s $308,334 of dead cap space attributed to Balcers for the 2023-24 season.

Meanwhile, Balcers signed a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers in 2022-23. He was later placed on waivers and claimed by the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he finished out the season.

This offseason, Balcers signed a deal with a Swiss club the ZSC Lions.

What the Sharks gained in the Karlsson trade and where are they now?

Let’s start with the lesser known piece that San Jose received.

Francis Perron
Francis Perron is a forward who currently plays in the Swedish Hockey League. He joined the San Jose Barracuda in the year following the trade, setting a career high with 47 points (18 G, 29 A) in 63 games.

But that was the end of Perron’s time with the Sharks. He was bundled with a seventh-round pick at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and traded to the Vancouver Canucks. The Sharks received a sixth-round pick and the rights to Tom Pyatt.

Pyatt went unsigned and turned to the SHL. He is currently retired, having never played a game in a teal jersey.

Meanwhile, the Sharks used that sixth-round pick to select Timur Ibragimov, a Russian forward. Ibragimov split time between the Wichita Thunder of the ECHL and the Utica Comets of the AHL last season. He’s expected to play with the Comets this upcoming season.

Erik Karlsson
While the Perron piece of the trade will likely yield nothing of significant value, Sharks fans know that the key return in the trade was Karlsson himself. The only trouble is, he was never really healthy during those first four seasons. Karlsson played 53 games in 2018-19, 56 in 2019-2020, 52 in 2020-2021 and 50 in 2021-2022. Health prevented him from being the Norris Trophy defenseman the Sharks desired.

However, 2022-23 brought San Jose the player the team had always desired. Karlsson played all 82 games. He was healthy and he dominated on the ice. He registered 101 points (25 G, 76 A) and took home the Norris Trophy. He showed exactly why San Jose traded for him.

Who won the trade?

As one is wont to do in situations like this, we want to decide who won the trade.

Looking at the pieces that San Jose lost, most specifically Norris, the 2020 draft pick (Stutzle) and the 2021 draft pick (Ostapchuk), it’s hard to say San Jose won.

The only way these losses would be acceptable is if San Jose had lifted the Cup with Karlsson on the roster. The Sharks have yet to do that and Karlsson looks to be on his way out to a team that’s going to help him on his path to Cup glory.

Five years from now and ten years after the trade, we might say that San Jose won. But as it stands now, Ottawa was the clear winner.

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