Karlsson will add ‘power’ to Pens’ powerplay

Like a poker player pushing all his chips into the centre of the table and declaring “all in,” new general manager and president of Hockey Operations Kyle Dubas of the Pittsburgh Penguins is going for the gusto in the approaching National Hockey League season.

Bruce Penton

August 19, 2023

Scanning the birthdates of players on his roster, Dubas, 37, the former Maple Leaf wonder kid who was sent packing after last season but quickly caught on with the Penguins, saw that his best players were, well, aging.

While 37 may be considered young for an NHL GM, the same can't be said for players. Sidney Crosby, 36. Evgeni Malkin, 37, Kris Letang, 36, the three pillars of the team's relatively potent power play, had perhaps two, maybe three more years of brilliance before Father Time took over.

Hence, chips all in.

Dubas struck a deal with San Jose Sharks to acquire Erik Karlsson, 33, who may or not be the league's best 'defenceman' but is undoubtedly the NHL's most potent offensive defenceman. Last year, the Swedish superstar racked up 101 points for the Sharks, 27 of them on the power play, and was 25 points better than the next highest-scoring defencemen -- Quinn Hughes of Vancouver and Josh Morrissey of Winnipeg. By the way, Karlsson also won his third James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL's best D-man.

Add Karlsson to the Penguins power play alongside Crosby, Malkin, Letang and perhaps Richard Rakell or Bryan Rust (Jake Guentzel had ankle surgery and will miss the first couple of weeks of the season) and it could be red-light horror for opposing teams' netminders. Crosby is one of the most creative players in the league, but Karlsson may be even better with the puck. Those two controlling the play while Malkin and Letang get into position to fire rockets could result in an offensive explosion.

Scoring powerplay goals is not the whole reason for Karlsson's presence, though. It's to try to win a Stanley Cup, and the addition of the super Swede could be an important piece of the puzzle for Pittsburgh. If goalie Tristan Jarry has an above-average season in goal, the Pens should score enough goals to be a Stanley Cup threat.

"I was very excited about the opportunity to have a chance to go somewhere where I could be on a team that is contending," Karlsson said in an NHL.com story. "It was exciting when I heard that (the Penguins) were interested, so I'm happy that it worked out in the end here."

NHL training camps don't open for about another three weeks, and while many eyes will be on Chicago and the Connor Bedard Show, Penguins fans will be excitedly watching how Karlsson, Crosby and Co. work on developing their magic to make life miserable for NHL goalies.

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