The two-time Norris trophy winner is at the top of the NHL trade bait list.
Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson has a 50/50 chance of getting moved. That’s right, a team that was one shot away from getting to the Stanley Cup Final last year, is talking about trading the best player they’ve ever had. Since breaking into the league, the 27-year-old Karlsson has 497 points in 609 games, he won a Norris trophy in 2012 and 2014. He arguably should have won it last year and was the best player in the playoffs, even receiving some Conn Smythe votes in the process. Coming into the year, many people would have considered Karlsson the 3rd best player in the league behind Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. So why in the world would the Senators trade Erik Karlsson?
This season has not gone as planned in Ottawa. The Senators sit 3rd last in the league with 51 points, they’re 25th in goals for and 29th in goals against… not exactly a recipe for success. Karlsson has struggled after off-season ankle surgery and is a -27, but still has 41 points in 53 games. Karlsson is an Unrestricted Free Agent after the 2018-2019 season and is due for a huge raise up from the $6.5 Million he currently makes and one would think that his new annual salary will probably start with a 10. Owner Eugene Melnyk constantly digs himself a hole by threatening to move the team and it’s quite inevitable that he would like to cut costs and not have to give someone an 80 million dollar contract. It’s hard to even think of a price for Karlsson. One would have to think that there would be multiple first round picks, a high-end prospect, and a good young NHL player. The Senators are also reportedly attaching Bobby Ryan’s dreadful contract (4 years left at $7.25 million) to whatever potential deal there is. All other 30 NHL teams would be stupid to not inquire about Karlsson but here are my top fits.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Why it works? The Tampa Bay Lightning have the best prospects in the NHL, are Stanley Cup contenders and Karlsson’s best friend Victor Hedman plays there.
Why it doesn’t? Salary cap. Guess who else in a free agent in 2019 along with Karlsson? The leading scorer in the NHL, Nikita Kucherov. He’s due to double his current $4.77 million aav contract. Vezina Candidate Andrei Vasilevskiy is also due for a new contract the year after, if trading for and then re-signing Karlsson, Tampa Bay would lose either Kucherov or Vasilevskiy. Another deterrent would be the Sens don’t want to trade in division.
Potential Package: Mikhail Sergachev, Tyler Johnson, Cal Foote and 2 first round picks
Why it works? The Oilers have the best player in the NHL, a brand new arena and have had a 30 year need for a powerplay quarterback.
Why it doesn’t? I cannot see Karlsson wanting to play for another Canadian market, he only speaks to media when requested and constantly tries to avoid talking. Cap space is also an issue with Connor McDavid making $12.25 million over the next 8 years.
Potential Package: Leon Draisaitl, Oscar Klefbom, Kailer Yamamoto and 2 first round picks. If Melnyk doesn’t want to pay Draisaitl’s $8.5 million, then Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be a more viable option, although then you would have to throw in more if you were the Oilers.
Vegas Golden Knights
Why it works? It’s not within the division, cap space is not an issue and Karlsson would be the face of the league’s 31st franchise.
Why it doesn’t? Vegas has had a Cinderella story type year, nobody expected them to be this good this quick. Would GM George McPhee alter the plan to get Karlsson? It’s not every day that a top 3 defencemen becomes available.
Potential Package: Shea Theodore, Cody Glass, Erik Brannstrom two 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick. This package might be cheaper if Vegas takes on the Bobby Ryan contract.
This type of trade is so tough to make in season, given that you don’t know where the 1st round pick is. Another thing working against a potential move is that Karlsson’s wife is from Ottawa and could be a reason to stay. Any potential Karlsson trade would be a historic move and could make for a very interesting February 26th trade deadline.
Follow me on Twitter, @AEhrmantraut.