If you are already fed up of hearing trade chatter and free-agency rumors on Ottawa Senators captain and star defenseman Erik Karlsson, you need to take a chill pill. Or realize that the hockey world is far from done talking about the potential destinations for the defender. Don't forget that what will always remain interesting is the fact that many teams around the National Hockey League are looking for a rebuilding, and some a new face for their franchise. It's quite normal after all: for the Montreal Canadiens, you think Carey Price. In Pittsburgh, you go to captain Sidney Crosby and for the Edmonton Oilers, you immediately think of Connor McDavid. It's a thing.
And, it's a thing the Carolina Hurricanes do not have. In the recent week, the Canes have made a splash with important changes. Last Wednesday, they demoted general manager Ron Francis to a new position and started to conduct a search to replace him. While Francis will remain with the team as president of hockey operations, his replacement as general manager will report directly to new owner Tom Dundon. When analyzing the recent removal of Francis, The Athletic's Eric Duhatschek suggests that whoever becomes his replacement “will have trade chips at his disposal to shuffle the deck,” provided new owner Dundon allows them to do it.
"Dundon doesn’t have an NHL track record, so it’s difficult to speculate what the new marching orders will be, but if he’s as savvy a businessman as people say, he may be reluctant to pour more money into the operation until things start to improve at the box office. But that’s a Catch-22 sometimes, especially in a market such as Carolina that has shown signs of life when the team is a contender," Duhatschek writes.
Last week, his colleague Arpon Basu suggested that the Montreal Canadiens could offer up expensive players like goalie Carey Price and captain Max Pacioretty to see what assets they could get, but that would be a lot of money for the Hurricanes to absorb.
However, Duhatschek hints that since the Hurricanes are lacking a true superstar in their roster, he now wonders if Karlsson could be an option.
"Carolina has some nice pieces, but the Hurricanes lack a genuine superstar. Might Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson be the solution? Carolina is already deep on the blueline, but as good as Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin and Jaccob Slavin are, no one is confusing them with Karlsson in terms of pure star power. He is fun to watch. He might just lure more people into the building. At his best, Karlsson is one of the five most dynamic players in the NHL and since Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby aren’t going anywhere, he might be the best available option for a Carolina team that could genuinely use a box-office attraction to revitalize interest in the market."
Shocker. However, when you think of it, nothing is as shocking as it once was when it comes to Karlsson. During the Feb. 26 trade deadline, the most earth-moving trade proposal came from the Vegas Golden Knights, and while many insiders like TSN's Bob McKenzie claimed that it came close to a finalized deal, Sens general manager Pierre Dorion stated that some of the proposals were ridiculous to try and nab his franchise player. However, Duhastachek wonders if Ottawa lost their best opportunity to maximize their return on him, as the Senators are looking for key draft picks and young pieces to accomplish a true successful rebuild.
But now, it seems like Carolina could offer them an even more interesting package...
"Maybe Carolina is a new player [for Karlsson] at the table come June, at the entry draft. Of course, to offer any meaningful assets in exchange for Karlsson, you’d need some sort of assurance that he would want to play long-term in Raleigh. Maybe you wouldn’t get that and that would end the discussion, right there. But when you think about what lies ahead for Carolina in the post-Ron Francis era, that’s the sort of move they should be pondering if they want to add a little pizzaz to the mix."
The Hurricanes are surely looking to add a superstar, perhaps as early as thus summer, but Karlsson?! Carolina could look to focus more on the pursuit for a scoring forward, as they lack power down the middle. And of course, Karlsson, who is a year away from unrestricted free agent status, has a modified no-trade clause in his current deal and could reject a trade to Carolina.
But that would not stop the Hurricanes. What the heck, they might even make a bid on New York Islanders star John Tavares if he tests this summer’s free-agent market in July. Who knows?
The Hurricanes could be getting more and more interesting after all...