The biggest story to watch - the biggest story of any National Hockey League deadline - was expected to be the Ottawa Senators possibly trading their captain, and star defenseman, Erik Karlsson on Monday. The Sens were indeed the team to watch yesterday as rumors of Mike Hoffman, Zack Smith, and, most of all, Karlsson were finally much ado about nothing.
NHL Insider Bob McKenzie reported the Vegas Golden Knights were among several suitors making a play for Karlsson, but that deal did not work out in the end. But the Knights were reportedly quite aggressive in trying to land the two-time Norris Trophy winner.
“Multiple teams phoned, but Erik’s a franchise player and we felt there was no franchise deal out there that could satisfy to make the best hockey deal,” said Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion during his post-deadline press conference on Monday.
And then Dorion placed his foot in his mouth, getting the calmer Ottawa Senators fans back in full anxiety mode.
“I think Erik wants to be a Senator for life . . . if he’s here on July 1, we will be making him a contract offer.”
IF? Karlsson, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2018-19 season, can’t begin negotiations on a new deal until July 1. Sure. But the general managers' statement seems to claim that Karlsson won’t be here on July 1. A blockbuster move could always take place at the NHL Entry Draft...
The bottom is that owner Eugene Melnyk seems to be working extremely hard to deal Karlsson elsewhere, including attempting to dump the $33 million remaining on Bobby Ryan’s contract as part of a potential Karlsson trade. With that in mind, it seems hard to imagine how Melnyk would consider offering Karlsson an eight-year extension in the $80 million – $100 million range - unless there is a dramatic change in the Sens' ownership and/or management. Or philosophy, yes of course.
“Obviously, this year we thought we’d be a playoff team,” Dorion said. “We thought we’d be a team that could make noise in the playoffs and now we’re in 29th place and when that comes there are tough decisions that have to be made.
“I think everything has to be reviewed. I think I fielded calls on every single player on our roster over the last few months or so and I think we have to do it as an organization to listen to every offer on every player.”
For now, when it comes to Karlsson, Dorion almost hinted that rival teams will need to up the ante, and present better, more serious offers in order to get Karlsson out of the nation's capital.
“I’m told about a lot of stuff that is pure, total nonsense,” he said. “It’s almost to the point of stupidity and I shouldn’t even comment on it.
“I hope they got the message. If we’re willing to trade a generational player that means we’re not very happy about a lot of their performances this year.”
For now, Dorion is also hoping that Karlsson's entourage will keep him in Ottawa.
“Let’s face it, Erik married a girl from Ottawa," he said. "His first child will be born in Ottawa. We want to make sure Erik can be here as long as we can.”
“The only direction I got from my boss (owner Eugene Melnyk) is make the best hockey deals for the Ottawa Senators,” Dorion said. “Today, I didn’t feel there was good enough hockey deals for this organization.”
The Senators dealt Derick Brassard to the Penguins on Friday and sent Ian Cole to Columbus and Nick Shore to the Flames prior to Monday's trade deadline. They also lost veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya - for nothing - as he was claimed off waivers by the Flyers.
Let's see how it can get better... or worse.
The New York Rangers did manage to trade their star defenseman and captain Ryan McDonagh on Monday. New York sent McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The blockbuster deal saw forward Vladislav Namestnikov, prospects Brett Howden and Libor Hajek, a 2018 first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick heading up in New York.