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Report: Crosby, Letang endorse Penguins' pursuit of Karlsson

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New Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operations Kyle Dubas seems to have his eye on one of this summer's biggest trade targets, and he has the backing of two of his most important players to get a deal done.

Franchise icons Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang have given their stamps of approval for the Penguins to acquire San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson, reports The Athletic's Rob Rossi.

The Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes have emerged as the primary suitors for Karlsson, and both teams have been granted permission to speak directly to him, per Rossi. Karlsson has made it abundantly clear that he would like to be moved to a contender as he enters his 15th season in the NHL.

Dubas more or less confirmed his interest in the star blue-liner on July 1.

"When there's a player like that who becomes available, especially with a core group (like this), I think it's incumbent on me to reach out and see if there's a fit for us," he said, according to The Athletic's Josh Yohe. "That's the way I viewed that entire situation."

Yohe previously reported that the Penguins were "extremely close" to landing Karlsson during Canada Day's free-agent frenzy. Dubas had a busy day regardless, extending netminder Tristan Jarry and bringing in Ryan Graves, Lars Eller, Matt Nieto, Noel Acciari, and Alex Nedeljkovic.

The Penguins are currently a little under $2.3 million over the cap, according to CapFriendly. Karlsson comes with a hefty price tag, carrying a cap hit of $11.5 million for the next four seasons. Sharks general manager Mike Grier said in June the Sharks likely wouldn't be willing to retain 50% of his salary, according to team beat writer Curtis Pashelka.

If Pittsburgh brings the Swede into the fold, Letang would remain the Penguins' No. 1 defenseman and would be willing to change his role on the top power-play unit to allow Karlsson to quarterback it, per Rossi.

Karlsson has been firmly entrenched in the rumor mill since November when Grier revealed he'd be open to offers for the stud rearguard.

The 33-year-old is a hot commodity after he erupted for 101 points while skating in all 82 games for the first time since 2015-16 this past season. He won the Norris Trophy for the third time in his career as a result of his resurgent performance.

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