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HomeSportsErik Karlsson trade - Fantasy reaction, outlook, power-play impact

Erik Karlsson trade – Fantasy reaction, outlook, power-play impact

While Kyle Benjamin Dubas sends ripples throughout the NHL community by making his first significant splash as Pittsburgh’s new multi-titled Grand Poobah by, finally, acquiring a player he’s reportedly coveted since (co-)steering the Maple Leafs’ ship in Toronto, there’s plenty to assess through our specific fantasy lens. In Pittsburgh and elsewhere.

Beginning with the former Shark himself, there’s little doubt Erik Karlsson will have plenty of opportunities to amass an impressive number of points with a more dynamic scoring side in Pennsylvania. Despite failing to make the playoffs for the first time in forever, the Penguins still managed to average 0.34 more goals per game than San Jose, thanks to stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jake Guentzel – players Karlsson is projected to spend most of his time with on the ice, at even-strength and with the extra skater.

While we can’t realistically expect the right-shooting blueliner to replicate his Norris-winning, 101-point campaign from last year, the 33-year-old will undoubtedly reap the fresh benefits of competing alongside more prolific playmakers and scoring forwards – no offense to Logan Couture or Tomas Hertl – with his new squad. Particularly on the power play. Karlsson only potted a quarter of his 101 points with the man-advantage this past season. By way of comparison, Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes rocked out at 45%, collecting 34 of his 76-total with the man-advantage.

While Karlsson is likely to see a dip in overall production – because such unicorn seasons remain exceptionally rare – I anticipate he’ll bang out a larger percentage of his overall haul while anchoring a No. 1 special teams unit. Which carries extra value in most scoring fantasy leagues. The question isn’t whether Karlsson is a top-3 defenseman asset in most leagues, but if he’s a Top-10 skater overall. How does 80 points with 35 earned on the power play through 2023-24 suit you? Along with 200-plus shots and 25 minutes/game? Suits me well enough.

Of course, other Penguins are poised to benefit from the injection of the offensive-defenseman joining forces. The company one keeps and all that. Some lucky skater is going to find himself on that aforementioned top power play unit alongside Karlsson, Crosby, Malkin, and Guentzel (once recovered from ankle surgery). Prematurely, that appears to be Rickard Rakell, but don’t disregard the possibility of Pittsburgh newbie Reilly Smith squeezing his way into that fivesome. At minimum, the Stanley Cup Champ should earn a turn while Guentzel remains sidelined through the season’s first couple of weeks. As a top-sixer altogether, Smith has a 65-point season written all over him. Draft him accordingly. Bryan Rust could also get a look on that formidable top special teams’ unit.

At even-strength, Ryan Graves, if not Marcus Pettersson, could see a boost in partnering Karlsson on the top pair. Toss in the inevitable few extra points accrued through that partnership, and Graves morphs into a sneaky great asset in fantasy leagues that also reward blocked-shots. In any case, keep a view of who ends up partnering Karlsson in camp. The biggest fantasy loser in this deal? Kris Letang, who drops to the club’s second power play and pairing. (But who won’t give the lightest toss if his club ends up challenging for another Cup as a result.)

Back in San Jose, Mario Ferraro appears set to anchor the No. 1 power play, at least to start. Although Matt Benning could wrestle that gig away, if offered the opportunity. Either way, I’m only drafting either as a late sleeper pick in deeper leagues, until the rebuilding Sharks figure matters out further. Without question, Mike Grier’s team is a work-in-progress.

Elsewhere, it’s worth noting that Jeff Petry is in position to fight for a position on the top power play back in Montreal. It’s not like he isn’t familiar with the gig. Petry potted 42 points in 55 games with the Canadiens only three years ago. A healthy campaign could see him flirt with 50 points, if he remains with the Habs. There’s chatter that the 35-year-old might be on the move again shortly. And if he lands with a club that has greater blue-line depth, the veteran’s fantasy value drops.

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