The future seems so unsure in Ottawa, as the Senators struggled immensely this season and the ownership saga with an eventual move downtown have raised more doubts than anything in the Canadian nation's capital. Of course, the future of no player will be speculated about more than captain Erik Karlsson, whom a number of teams engaged in trade talks with Ottawa about at the trade deadline. There were even speculations that a deal almost took place with the Vegas Golden Knights, though GM Pierre Dorion still denies the report, adding that no offer was worthy of his best player.
While fans may think the Sens will get a break once the regular-season calendar is over, the team's management knows all too well that's when the hardest work begins. Karlsson, who has a year left on his current deal, is eligible to sign an extension beginning July 1, like teammates Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. And let's not forget: Defencemen Cody Ceci, Freddy Claesson and star right wing Mark Stone are all restricted free agents this summer. There is plenty of work to do to make sure the Sens get the right identity.
According to Cap Friendly, the Senators have $72,369,598 committed this season. The salary cap is expected to rise as high as $80 million next season, which gives Ottawa some breathing room, but not necessarily the flexibility to make big changes. Dorion has to deal with expensive contracts that are clearly not worth much on the ice. Fans may wonder if Alex Burrows or Marian Gaborik's deal will be bought out. The same can be asked of Bobby Ryan, who still has four years outstanding on his contract with a whooping $30m payable. A buyout would cost $14,666,667 plus additional $8M in signing bonuses, leaving a cap hit of $1,833,333 dead on the books for the team for eight seasons.
However, there seems to be a potential solution available to the Senators. In his latest 31 Thoughts column on Sportsnet, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman revealed that another team in need of figuring the cap space puzzle might be interesting in landing a hand to the Senators. Friedman believes that the Vancouver Canucks might be more inclined to offer shorter contracts, and less lucrative ones in the coming season, and could have room to take on Ryan's deal if Ottawa is willing to do something in return. Here is how Friedman explained it:
"[The Canucks could be an aggressive participant on the market] by leveraging their cap space like Vegas did last summer. We’ll help you, the Canucks can say, but you are going to help us. Two calls I’d be making would be to Chicago and Ottawa. Could the Canucks pitch taking some or all of Marian Hossa’s cap hit and/or Bobby Ryan’s contract, as long as the Blackhawks and Senators make it worth their while? (Ryan would have some control over his destination.)"
After all, trade chatter swirled at the deadline that Dorion was attempting to include Ryan in a deal with Karlsson. The forward himself believed the two of them had been traded to a Western Conference team the weekend prior to the trade deadline, so he is clearly ready for it. While he does have some control over his destination, he might be interested in getting a leadership role in Vancouver now that the Sedins have announced their retirement.