Dubas: Karlsson acquisition an ‘affirmation’ of my belief in Penguins

Dubas: Karlsson acquisition an 'affirmation' of my belief in Penguins

Kyle Dubas thinks he sent a clear message to the Pittsburgh Penguins after acquiring star defenseman Erik Karlsson in a complicated three-team, nine-player trade.

“I think it’s just an affirmation that we believe that they have a chance to contend and compete for a championship,” the general manager said during a press conference Monday.

He added: “(Karlsson’s) still an elite player, as he showed last year. … We have a chance to add him, we’re gonna do it because we believe in the group.”

Dubas said he wanted to bring in Karlsson to help the Penguins move the puck out of their own zone, and he hailed the 6-foot Swede as “one of the top skaters” in the league.

Karlsson, 33, enjoyed a resurgent 2022-23 campaign, potting 76 assists and 101 points in 82 games en route to winning his third career Norris Trophy. The San Jose Sharks retained 13% of his salary in the trade, meaning Karlsson will cost the Penguins $10 million in each of the next four seasons.

Dubas acknowledged that the road to landing Karlsson was a “fairly lengthy process” that seemed to have kept him awake some nights.

“When it’s a good player that you really want, that’s why you spend a lot of your nights staring up at the ceiling rather than sleeping, (thinking) of different ways you can make it happen,” he said. “(You have to) know the market, which other teams are gonna jump in, who can beat you to it, how can they beat you to it, how can you outdo them.”

Pittsburgh was mired by uncharacteristic inconsistencies last season. The team won three-plus consecutive games just three times and lost four-plus straight contests four times, including a seven-game slump.

As a result, the Penguins missed the postseason for the first time since 2005-06 by one point.

“There’s a lot of work that has to be done. … I know that there’ll be lots of people that doubt the group, and rightfully so,” Dubas said. “We have to go out and prove it.”

Dubas officially took on the title of Pittsburgh’s GM on Thursday, in addition to his role as president of hockey operations. He joined the Penguins’ front office in June shortly after parting ways with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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