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Karlsson on Penguins: 'We are a huge disappointment'


Erik Karlsson issued a harsh critique of the Pittsburgh Penguins after missing the playoffs in his first season with the team.

“We are a huge disappointment,” Karlsson told Josh Yohe of The Athletic prior to a season-ending 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders on Wednesday. “Huge. We underachieved so much and it’s very disappointing. There’s no other way to say it.”

The Penguins spent most of the season outside of the playoff picture, but went 8-3-1 over their final 12 games to close on a postseason spot. Pittsburgh was eliminated from playoff contention on Tuesday when the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers

Karlsson was acquired in the off-season from the San Jose Sharks as part of a blockbuster three-team trade in August as new president and general manager Kyle Dubas looked to push the Penguins back to the postseason after missing in 2023 for the first time since 2006.

The 33-year-old defenceman was coming off a career year in which he posted 25 goals and 101 points en route to winning his third Norris Trophy. Karlsson crashed back to earth with 11 goals and 56 points in 82 games in his first season with the Penguins.

“I think it’s been an underachieving season for a lot of us,” he said. “I think we’re a much better team than what we’ve displayed in 81 games this season. But at the same time, we did all of this to ourselves. That’s what is frustrating.”

Karlsson has made the playoffs six times in his 15-year career, with his last appearance coming with the Sharks in 2019, when the team reached the Western Conference Final. He also reached the Eastern Conference Final with the Ottawa Senators in 2017, his second last season with the team.

Signed through the 2026-27 season signed at a cap hit of $10 million for the Penguins after the Sharks retained $1.5 million in last year's deal, Karlsson reiterated his commitment to staying in Pittsburgh to Yohe. 

Selected by the Senators 15th overall in the 2008 draft, Karlsson surpassed the 1,000-game mark last week. He has 189 goals and 817 points in 1,002 career games.