It’s now nearly three weeks past the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the day that many hockey insiders believed would be the day in which Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson would FINALLY be traded in a blockbuster deal. Of course, Karlsson was not traded and, as of today, remains a member of the Senators organization.
And while there’s little doubt that all 31 teams would welcome Karlsson on their roster, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks have all emerged as frontrunners in rumor reports. Interestingly enough, the Lightning handed out a GIANT contract extension to superstar forward Nikita Kucherov earlier today. The belief amongst many hockey fans was that Kucherov’s new $9.5 million annual salary would take the team out of the running for Karlsson. Not so, says Lightning insider Joe Smith.
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The Nikita Kucherov extension doesn’t take TBLightning out of Karlsson situation. They were going to sign Kucherov anyways. This just gives cost certainty long term.
Wait… so how does Lightning GM Steve Yzerman plan on fitting all these superstar players under the NHL’s salary cap? The Lightning have approximately $3 million in cap space with nearly all of their restricted free-agents currently under contract, so they’ll definitely need to shed some salary if they’re going to fit Karlsson and his $6.5 million on the roster for 2018-19. They’ll need to shed even more if they plan on keeping him around long-term.
David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reports that the Lightning are expected to part ways with veteran Ryan Callahan and his onerous $5.8 million contract in order to make room for Karlsson. The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are reportedly interested in facilitating a three-way deal with the Lightning and the Rangers, so long as they can make it worthwhile.
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If Karlsson is dealt to TB, the Bolts still plan a move with another team to move out $$, with the expectation still being Callahan. Told Rangers, Devils and at least one other team remain options as a 3rd party team.
It remains to be seen what a team like the Rangers or Devils could get in addition to Callahan, but you have to imagine that they’ll receive an additional asset from the Lightning in exchange for taking on Callahan’s massive contract. Could a top prospect like Cal Foote, Taylor Raddysh or Anthony Cirelli be on the move along with Callahan?