The Pittsburgh Penguins became the latest team to check in on 2023 Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks, reported Josh Yohe of The Athletic.
Ultimately, they deemed the asking price to be too high, especially after new general manager Kyle Dubas went on a spending spree at the start of free agency, signing Tristan Jarry, Lars Eller and Ryan Graves for a total of $58.775 million.
Even with the Penguins seemingly out of the running, the star defenseman remains at the center of trade interest this offseason.
Toronto, Carolina and Seattle have all been linked to the 33-year-old, but none have been able to get a deal in place to acquire the league's best defender, thanks to the Sharks' desire to receive fair compensation in return.
Oh, and the desire by potential trade partners for San Jose to take on more of the star's $11.5 million contract, as reported by Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli on SportsNet's Canucks Central podcast.
The team has reportedly agreed to take on 20 percent, which would leave Karlsson's contract at $9.2 million. For cap-strapped teams that can afford a contract that is more in the $8 million, that additional 10 percent is huge.
Sharks general manager Mike Grier has already denounced the idea of retaining the up-to 50-percent that the team is allowed to retain, telling the media before the draft, "We're not just going to, people think we're gonna eat 50 percent of his contract, it's probably not going to happen."
To even nudge the Sharks higher than 20 percent, the trade partner will likely have to put together a package that wows San Jose brass. "The more they retain, the better the deal has to be," Elliott Friedman said on the 32 Thoughts podcast.
Especially as Sharks owner Hasso Plattner takes on a greater role in the deal, as Friedman revealed has been the case.
The Sharks may be playing hardball in regards to the Karlsson deal but that is their prerogative and more importantly, they should absolutely get value in return for him.
Karlsson is coming off the best season of his career, with highs in goals, assists, points and shooting percentage. He was a force on defense but also, an asset offensively. There is a reason playoff contenders are coveting him and if they hope to have the defenseman on their team while in pursuit of the Stanley Cup, they have to pay up.
San Jose was at the bottom of the league in attendance in 2022-23 (excluding Arizona and their 5,000-seat arena) according to Sports Business Journal, drawing an average of 13,988 and just 76-percent of its capacity.
Losing a genuine star like Karlsson will hurt the team's ability to draw. Recouping another star or a handful of young prospects who the team can turn into stars will be key in making any deal.
If another team is going to benefit from Karlsson and potentially win the most prestigious prize in the sport, all while the Sharks are expected to take on anywhere from 20-30 percent of his deal, the return must be fair and San Jose is every bit in the right for dragging it's feet until it is.