Will Erik Karlsson Be Joining the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Jul 22, 2023

San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson confirmed that he has spoken to several teams as Sharks attempt to trade him. There is no shortage of contenders who, would love to add the reigning Norris Trophy winner (the third Norris trophy in his career). 



According to Chris Johnson, the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of a handful of teams that the former Ottawa Senators captain has spoken to. Also, Karlsson has made it clear that he is most interested in being traded to join a Stanley Cup contender, and his agent has been working with the Sharks to find a trade partner and broker a deal. 


“I just want the best chance to get to the best team,”

– Erik Karlsson 



There is an undeniable truth, the salary cap. Erik Karlsson’s $11 million per year contract would signal the need for the Toronto Maple Leafs to potentially trade one of their core players, most likely William Nylander. The significant financial commitment to Karlsson would put the Leafs well over the cap, making it a necessity to move out salary. With Nylander’s contractual issues now, he might be the easiest one of the core group to sacrifice to bring in the 33-year-old defenseman. 


Nylander celebrates a goal


Karlsson would make the Maple Leafs’ already dangerous offensive game even more lethal. His exceptional offensive skills, vision, and playmaking abilities would add another dimension to the team’s attack, creating additional scoring opportunities for the forwards in the regular season. Karlsson’s biggest strength lies in his ability to quarterback the power play (PP). His precise passing, pin-point accurate shot from the point, and hockey IQ allow him to pick apart defensive schemes and open up any penalty-killing unit. This makes him a potent force with the man advantage and could improve the Maple Leafs’ power play efficiency. But is it necessary? With the Leafs holding the second-best power play in the NHL over the last 5 seasons, with an efficiency hovering around 25%, it is not a necessity to address, even last season, it was at 26%. There was also not much of a drop in efficiency in the playoffs as the Leafs scored on 25% of their PP opportunities in 2023. 


Coaching Changes Give Creedence to Rumors 


The hiring of Guy Boucher to work as an assistant coach and to help run the power play is a signal that Karlsson is a primary trade target for the Maple Leafs.  



Boucher, having previously served as the head coach for the Ottawa Senators, has a history of working with Karlsson during their time in Ottawa, including a playoff run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2017. Hiring Boucher could indicate the team’s serious intent to acquire Karlsson and further amplify their offensive and PP play capabilities. The involvement of Guy Boucher adds an intriguing dimension, suggesting that the team might be actively pursuing Karlsson  


Erik Karlsson’s potential addition to the Toronto Maple Leafs would have a profound impact on the team’s dynamics. While it would improve their five-on-five offense and PP performance, it could also lead to tough financial decisions with an immediate impact on their core, specific players like William Nylander due to salary cap constraints. It is also a gamble to bring in an older player, even one who had a 100-point season and won the Norris trophy. Arguably only due to his offensive skills. No matter what happens, it is clear from the moves GM Brad Treliving has already made, and based on the ones he is involved in trying to complete, Toronto is absolutely “All-In” for the Stanley Cup, now they just need to win more than one playoff round. 







Blain Potvin

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