The Maple Leafs should make this trade offer to the San Jose Sharks for Erik Karlsson

Photo credit:Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
10 months ago
The NHL’s silly season is alive and kicking. We’ve already seen a flurry of action over the weekend and it’s time for the Toronto Maple Leafs to get involved. General manager Brad Treliving has yet to make a big move, and rightfully so, as he’s just getting his feet wet in his new office. But it could be time to move from dipping his toes to jumping in to test the water with some sharks.
The Maple Leafs’ defence core needs to be reset. Justin Holl thankfully won’t be back, Jake Muzzin isn’t expected to play in 2023-24, and Luke Schenn may price himself off the roster when free agency opens. Treliving may need to go the trade route to improve his blue line, so why not make an offer for the upcoming Norris trophy winner?
The San Jose Sharks and Erik Karlsson have mutually agreed to find a trade partner this summer and the Maple Leafs should at least make a strong offer to see where it goes. Leafs Nation, try this on for size:

Maple Leafs trade Matt Murray, Timothy Liljegren, Topi Niemela and Roni Hirvonen to the Sharks for Erik Karlsson (50% salary retained)

Treliving doesn’t have an easy gig coming in after Kyle Dubas, who has basically traded away 100 draft picks and left the Maple Leafs scouting department twiddling their thumbs. If Toronto’s GM is going to make a splash via the trade market he’ll need to involve quantity over quality and likely no draft picks. No easy task to say the least.
Adding a 100-point defenseman would be a great first move by Treliving. Karlsson proved last season he still has a ton left in the tank and with his smooth-skating playing style, he should be able to finish his contract after the 2026-27 season. He’s owed $11.5 million per season and the Sharks would be retaining half in this deal, leaving Toronto with a $5.75 cap hit the next four seasons. This average annual value for a top-pairing defenseman, who can put up 100 points on a very bad team would be an absolute steal.
Karlsson running a power play that consists of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander could be bananas. If they didn’t finish top three in the league it would be a disappointment. Assistant coach Spencer Carberry, who ran the PP, is now behind the bench in Washington and the Leafs’ set up will look much different next season. Having Karlsson as the quarterback would be fun to watch.
This acquisition would give the Maple Leafs another elite weapon offensively. Production from the blue line was very inconsistent last season and while some may think Karlsson is only a power-play specialist, it’s worth noting he collected 74 points at even strength in 2022-23.

Sharks would land lots of upside in this deal

First off the Sharks need another goalie and have their eyes on some veteran help. Landing a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Murray would be a wise move. Not only is he a reclamation project, he’s one that could interest other teams at next season’s trade deadline.
Liljegren is the meat and potatoes of this trade for Sharks GM Mike Grier. At 24 years old with 141 NHL games under his belt, he’s coming into his own and could take a huge next step in sunny California. Liljegren makes $1.4 million against the cap and will be arbitration eligible as a restricted free agent next summer. His highest ceiling is a top-pairing number-two blueliner and if given the playing time next season in San Jose, it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to put up 50 points.
While losing Liljegren would hurt the Maple Leafs, it would only be for a moment here as Karlsson would be a huge upgrade. Murray, on the other hand, is the odd man out with Ilya Samsonov expected to re-sign and Joseph Woll under contract the next two seasons at under $1 million.
Niemela and Hirvonen are two of the best Maple Leafs’ prospects. They would give Grier two more 21-year-old assets for his organizational depth and both players would compete for playing time come training camp. Treliving doesn’t have a ton of ammo when it comes to appealing prospects in trades and he’d be capitalizing immensely with these two ‘bullets’.

Maple Leafs GM will need to be creative

With Toronto having limited cap space to go along with essentially their third-string goalie eating up $4.6 million on the books next season, Treliving will need to get creative to upgrade the team. This trade would do the trick.
Morgan Rielly isn’t going anywhere. Jake McCabe has great value at $2 million for the next two seasons. TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano have history with Treliving and likely are safe. Schenn could still be back, Connor Timmins doesn’t have much for trade value, meanwhile Liljegren is coming off an impressive season and a World Championships where he stood out on the blue line for Sweden. His trade value is significant and it could be time for the Leafs GM to take advantage.
If the Sharks are willing to retain 50% of Karlsson’s salary, the Maple Leafs should be very interested. They could center the trade around Liljegren and a couple of high-end prospects, while also ridding themselves of Murray’s contract for next season. Treliving’s first Maple Leafs’ splash could come in shark-infested waters. What a time to be alive.

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