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Karlsson: Penguins' season 'a huge disappointment'

Justin Berl / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Erik Karlsson offered a blunt assessment of the Pittsburgh Penguins' campaign after officially being eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday night.

"We are a huge disappointment," Karlsson told The Athletic's Josh Yohe. "We underachieved so much, and it's very disappointing. There's no other way to say it."

He added: "I think it's been an underachieving season for a lot of us. 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."

The Penguins missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06 last season and were expected by many to bounce back this year after acquiring Karlsson in a blockbuster trade with the San Jose Sharks over the summer.

The 33-year-old took a huge step back from his 101-point, Norris Trophy-winning 2022-23 campaign, with only 11 goals and 44 assists so far in his debut season with Pittsburgh. Karlsson's arrival was supposed to help resurrect the Penguins' putrid power play, but the club converted at a measly 14.3% rate this season.

"We couldn't get our minds out of the situation," Karlsson said of the slumping man advantage.

"That's what happens. When you're into something so incredibly deep like we all were on the power play, I think it actually becomes harder to see and figure out what the solution is. You try to get yourself out of that mindset. You try and try. You want to get rid of this feeling that you have, that something's not right on the power play, and you want to fix it. But we couldn't."

Karlsson is under contract for three more seasons at a $10-million cap hit. The Penguins have a projected $12.74 million in cap space over the summer to make improvements, and general manager Kyle Dubas previously said the club intends to compete for the playoffs while captain Sidney Crosby is still in the picture.

Karlsson hopes the current group is given another shot to prove themselves.

"I just hope we're together for a bit longer, because that way, we would get another chance to show just what we are capable of doing," he said. "I think we've learned a lot this season."

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