Editorials

New York Islanders Pros and Cons of UFA Defenseman Erik Karlsson

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 08: Erik Karlsson #65 of the San Jose Sharks shoots on goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the second period in Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 8, 2019 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 08: Erik Karlsson #65 of the San Jose Sharks shoots on goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the second period in Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 8, 2019 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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It seems that the New York Islanders might be interested in acquiring the services of pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Erik Karlsson. What are the pros and cons of such a move?

According to David Pagnotta of the Fourth Period, the New York Islanders – among other teams – are apparently interested in bringing in pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Erik Karlsson.

(You can hear what Pagnotta has to say on the Karlsson front if fast-forward to the 13:36 mark of the discussion.)

When healthy Karlsson is a perennial Norris Trophy candidate. He’s won the award as the league’s best defenceman twice and finished second in voting another two times. Over his ten-year career, he’s scored 563 points in 680 games. Including an 82 points season in 2015-16.

His quality is undeniable. Why wouldn’t the New York Islanders want to be targeting him? What are the pros and the cons of bringing in Erik Karlsson?

Pros: Quality Intake

The Islanders don’t technically need to bring in more defense. They were the best defensive team last season allowing the fewest goals against with 191. Stopping goals from going in isn’t something the Islanders need to fix going into 2019-20.

Scoring goals, on the other hand, is.

Erik Karlsson creates scoring opportunities. He’s one of the best at his position to do so. His high-danger chances for rate is fourth among defensemen from last season. He also ranks fourth in terms of scoring chances for percentage with a 56.80.

He creates more opportunities for his team than against and creates high-danger chances better than most in his position. That’s an incredible asset for a player who’s can be on the ice for 25+ minutes per game and in a system like Barry Trotz’s.

He’s also incredible at running a power play. Over the last six season, Karlsson has totaled no fewer than 15 power play points in a season.

If the goal in the offseason is to bring in more talent, it’s hard to find a player more talented than Erik Karlsson at his position.

Cons: Not 100%

Erik Karlsson’s injury issues are well documented. He hasn’t played a full season since 2015-16. His ankle just isn’t right. They did remove “half” of his ankle bone a few years back. Giving him what would likely be a seven-year deal with Drew Doughty money ($11 million AAV) could be terrible if he isn’t right.

Then there’s the fact that giving Karlsson an $11 million deal significantly reduces the New York Islanders ability to bring in a top-level forward. For all of Karlsson’s abilities, he isn’t a finisher, scoring 12 goals over the last two seasons.

The Islanders would still have to bring in players that could convert those high danger chances that Karlsson is creating. Something the New York Islanders did not do well last season, scoring 223 goals and ranking 22nd in goals for.

The Islanders, even after hypothetically bringing in Erik Karlsson would have to address a top six that did not perform well enough last season. With $11 million off the cap that becomes incredibly difficult to do.

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Regardless of bringing him in or not, the idea that the New York Islanders are being linked to players like Erik Karlsson is refreshing. Again, it’s debatable whether it’s a good idea or not. But it’s clear that this franchise is looking to add top end quality to the roster.

Maybe the New York Islanders aren’t there yet for big name free agents. But once Belmont is complete, and a few more years of winning hockey under their belts the Islanders can easily be a destination for players of Erik Karlsson’s skill level.

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