We’ve all heard the Erik Karlsson rumors this season. Will he stay in Ottawa as captain of the Ottawa Senators past the summer of 2019, or will he test the free-agent waters? Can the Sens afford to let him walk away for nothing? Can they afford to pay him even if he decides to stay?
The superstar defenseman has one year left on a contract that pays him an annual salary of $6.5 million and he’s set to nearly double that when his deal expires on July 1st, 2019. The time between now and then will be crucial in determining not only Karlsson’s future, but the future of the entire Senators organization. If it’s determined that Karlsson is moving on, expect the Sens to trade him as a way to recoup some assets and ensure that he doesn’t walk away for nothing. If this scenario plays out, expect dozens of teams to line up offers for the 27-year-old offensive defenseman, including marquee teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings. What you might not expect is for another team struggling through a rebuild to enter the Karlsson sweepstakes, a team like say… the Vancouver Canucks. But that’s exactly the team The Athletic’s Tyler Dellow sees landing Karlsson in the end. And, frankly, it’s not as crazy as it sounds.
Dellow makes the argument that the Canucks may be the best positioned team in the NHL to make a trade offer on Karlsson, given their current stable of picks and prospects.
Historically, GM’s have not been able to get a franchise altering player back in a trade where they ship out a franchise altering player. Very rarely do Eric Lindros for Peter Forsberg type swaps happen in the NHL. A quick recap of the Senator’s acquisition of Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche only serves to back up this sentiment.
In trading away Duchene, Avs GM Joe Sakic received:
- 2018 first round pick from Ottawa.
- 2018 second round pick from Nashville.
- 2019 third round pick from Ottawa.
- Shane Bowers, who went 28th overall in 2017.
- Samuel Girard, who went 47th overall in 2016.
- Vladislav Kamenev, who went 42nd overall in 2014.
It remains to be seen what the Avs get out of that deal, but the early returns are that they traded a sure thing for six giant question marks. What are the chances the Avs get a franchise type player out of all that? Statistically, the odds are pretty low.
So, if you go with the theory that Sens GM Pierre Dorion will be looking for quantity over quality, that is to say a BOUNTY of picks and prospects, for Karlsson, there’s no one in a better spot to talk trade than Canucks GM Jim Benning.
The Canucks are brimming with young talent, but it’s mostly at the forward positions. Rookie Brock Boeser has been a revelation this season and looks like a bonafide superstar in the making. There’s very little chance he’ll be discussed in trade negotiations. Ditto for center Bo Horvat, he’s too valuable to the Canucks’ present and future to be traded.
But what about 5th overall draft pick Elias Pettersson? The 19-year-old center is tearing up the Swedish Elite League this season with 16 goals and 41 points in just 33 games. He’s poised to be a star in the NHL, if not next season then very soon. And what about fellow Swede and former Sens draft pick Jonathan Dahlen? The 20-year-old was acquired by the Canucks from the Sens in exchange for veteran Alex Burrows last season and has had a successful season in his own right this year. The former 2nd round pick (42nd overall) has 20 goals and 37 points in just 34 games for Timra IK in Sweden.
Of course, the Canucks have draft picks to spare, as well. If things continue on their current path, it’s likely that the team will pick in the top 5 for a 3rd consecutive draft. Could a top pick, along with two top prospects entice Dorion to move Karlsson out West?
The big question, though: Do the Canucks want Karlsson? Benning and team president Trevor Linden have maintained all along that they’re committed to injecting the team’s roster with youth. The addition of a 27-year old Karlsson and the subtraction of three potential blue chip prospects flies directly in the face of their stated strategy.
Still… elite-level, superstar defensemen don’t hit the trade market everyday. Benning, Linden and company would serve themselves well to at least investigate.