NHL Rumor Mill – July 14, 2018
An update on Erik Karlsson plus the latest on the Blackhawks in your NHL rumor mill.
UPDATE ON KARLSSON
THE ATHLETIC: Chris Stevenson reports a lack of signing bonuses may be the reason defenseman Erik Karlsson rejected the Ottawa Senators’ eight-year contract offer. Citing a source not affiliated with the Senators who has knowledge of the offer, he said the club’s proposal was closer to $11-million annually but came up short in signing-bonus money.
Stevenson points out that over $40 million of John Tavares’ $77-million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs is paid in signing bonuses in the first three years of the deal. That the Senators didn’t offer more in signing money could be evidence of how cash-poor they actually are, noting their recent refinancing of $100 million US in debt.
He also observes the lack of information on the Karlsson trade front after reports last week had the Senators talking to the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning. He believes Senators general manager Pierre Dorion is taking his time and moving between the interested parties, “shopping offers back and forth”.
Stevenson feels the pressure point to get a deal done could be the start of training camp, as Karlsson has more trade value if a team can get him for the entire 2018-19 season, which is also the blueliner’s last one under his current contract. He believes Dorion is willing to start the new season with Karlsson in the lineup, “as uncomfortable as that might be for all the parties concerned.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever team eventually lands Karlsson via trade or free agency must be prepared to pay a big chunk of his salary in signing bonuses. Players like this feature because it pays them up front at the start of each season (which for contract purposes is July 1) and provides a measure of financial insurance in case there’s another lockout in 2020 or 2022.
Dorion has plenty of time to entertain offers in hopes of setting off a bidding war that will fetch a suitable return for the Senators. It’s obvious the Stars and Lightning are pursuing Karlsson and there’s speculation the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks could be revisiting their interest in the two-time Norris Trophy winner. It’s believed Dorion wants highly touted defense prospect Miro Heiskanen as part of the return from the Stars or promising blueliner Mikhail Sergachev from the Lightning.
Late last week, there were reports suggesting a deal could be close between the Senators and Lightning. While nothing came of it, there’s a belief the Lightning are trying to find a way to make the dollars work, both to take on Karlsson’s $6.5-million cap hit in 2018-19 and to ink him to a contract extension.
The New York Rangers are reportedly willing to help the Lightning free up some cap space, perhaps by bringing back former Ranger Ryan Callahan ($5.8-million AAV). However, they also want other assets, like a draft pick and a prospect, included in the deal.
LATEST ON THE BLACKHAWKS
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers projects the Chicago Blackhawks could have over $5.8 million in actual cap space to work with for 2018-19, anticipating the promotions of forwards Victor Ejdsell and John Hayden into the lineup and the possible call-up of forward Andreas Martinsen. They also have a salary-cap overage from last season of over $1.2 million.
With that cap space, Powers believes the Blackhawks could pursue a top-six forward and a top-four defenseman. He cites a league source claiming the Hawks contacted the Carolina Hurricanes about left wing Jeff Skinner and blueliner Justin Faulk. “The source said the asking price for both players is (Nick) Schmaltz and a first-round pick.
Powers also believes the Blackhawks could enquire about Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty. Unrestricted free agent winger Rick Nash could also be a target if he decides to return to action.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An earlier report from Powers cited reports claiming the Hurricanes wanted Brandon Saad in exchange for Faulk. Schmaltz and a first for Skinner and Faulk would certainly provide immediate help for the Blackhawks but it could hurt their long-term future.
Trading away the promising 22-year-old Schmaltz, who tallied 21 goals and 52 points as an NHL sophomore last season, would weaken the Blackhawks’ depth at center, meaning they’d have to move Artem Anisimov back up into the second-line center spot and find a third- or fourth-line center via trade or free agency.
Giving up a first-round pick could be seen as dealing away another piece of their future for a quick fix now. Another big downside is Skinner’s UFA eligibility next summer. He could seek a significant raise over his current $5.725-million cap hit. Faulk is at least signed through 2019-20.
If the Blackhawks are interested in Pacioretty, I daresay Schmaltz would also be the Canadiens’ asking price.