Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion made it clear Tuesday night that captain Erik Karlsson will not be traded at the NHL entry draft in June. However, is that honestly good enough for fans and pundits out there? On Wednesday in a meeting at a town hall attended by 300 season ticket holders at the Canadian Tire Centre, Dorion and owner Eugene Melnyk reminded fans that the “ball will be in Karlsson’s court” when the organization tables him an eight-year contract extension on July 1.
But what if other teams want to play with that same ball? Following the report of NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, don't be so sure that Karlsson will return to the Senators. He actually believes the new York Rangers might have an evil plan in play to acquire the star defenseman since he does not buy into the rebuilding phase the Blue Shirts announced they were entering prior to the trade deadline.
“There’s already the reports out of Russia that Kovalchuk is coming, right,” noted Friedman on the latest edition of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast with co-host Jeff Marek. “How much is this really a rebuild. And you’ve got to have kids. You can’t be successful without kids.
“But I don’t think we’re really going to know until the summer, after the draft and free agency, what kind of thing the Rangers are really looking at. I think there’s a chance they go for one or two bigger guys and try to fill in with the kids and see if the enthusiasm can carry them over.
“Karlsson could make a lot of sense there to me too, but not for a year.”
Karlsson has one year remaining on his contract and the Senators can’t talk about an extension until July 1st, however it is not entirely clear what Friedman meant by “but not for a year." If Karlsson plays the same game John Tavares is currently playing, the Rangers could attempt to sign the superstar defender without surrendering any assets once he hits the free-agent market next summer.
Chris Nichols of FanRag Sports also pointed out this other possibility: "Friedman could also have been indicating that Karlsson (via trade) could make sense for the Rangers, but only if they know for sure they can get him to agree to an extension (which couldn’t be officially signed until July 1, but could basically be agreed upon verbally before the trade). Giving up valuable assets via trade for Karlsson and then losing him to free agency in a year would be a fairly pointless exercise for this particular team in 2018-19."
While Dorion seems adamant about not moving his captain prior to the NHL Draft, Friedman has his doubts on the Sens' decision.
“I do think they’re going to get tempted,” predicted Friedman, in terms of the Senators moving Karlsson at or around the June draft. “I can’t see how it’s possible that someone isn’t going to go to them and say, ‘Alright, we need Erik Karlsson. Next year is a big year. Our owner’s on our butts to have a big year,’ or ‘I need to have a big year as a GM,’ or, ‘Our coach needs to have a big year and we could do something with Erik Karlsson.’
“I just find it hard to believe that nobody is going to tempt them.”
Marek reminded his co-host that the Senators keep talking about not dealing Karlsson before July 1, to which Friedman replied, “things change.”