NHL Rumor Mill – September 11, 2018
Are big changes coming soon to the Ottawa Senators? Read on for the latest.
TSN: In an interview with defenseman Mark Borowiecki, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk acknowledged his club is “kind of in the dumpster” and was in the midst of rebuilding with youth. Ian Mendes believes Melnyk’s comments will serve to heighten trade speculation surrounding defenseman Erik Karlsson. He suggests the video could be seen as a precursor to a Karlsson trade, perhaps before training camp opens on Thursday.
A roster overhaul, which could also include moving Karlsson’s fellow pending UFAs Mark Stone and Matt Duchene, might not sit well with Senators fans but Melnyk believes they’ll buy into the plan. The Sens owner also said he’s not going anywhere and the club won’t be relocated.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun said the Golden Knights addition of Pacioretty doesn’t necessarily take them out of the bidding for Karlsson. He thinks Vegas will keep lines of communication open with Ottawa.
The Golden Knights have looked at acquiring the all-star defenseman since February and nearly landed him at the trade deadline. LeBrun notes they still have sufficient cap space and depth in prospects and other assets to tempt the Senators, though they’re probably not the front-runners. He added he’d been told a couple of new teams have had conversations with the Senators about Karlsson but didn’t name them.
OTTAWA SUN: In the wake of the Montreal Canadiens trading Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights, Bruce Garrioch notes the focus shifts toward Karlsson’s status. With Senators’ training camp opening on Thursday, he wonders if the defenseman will be part of it, pointing out the Senators have been talking to teams about moving their captain since last February’s trade deadline.
Garrioch claims the San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights have been linked to Karlsson. He also noted last month’s reports claiming the Vancouver Canucks were mentioned as a possibility. Though the Canucks likely aren’t involved, Garrioch claims they did more than kick tires.
The Golden Knights’ acquisition of Pacioretty limits what they could pay for Karlsson. Meanwhile, the San Jose media speculated Sharks general manager Doug Wilson could feel pressure to make a big move before the Stars and Lightning do.
Garrioch claims some clubs have been pursuing Karlsson for months and aren’t giving up. The Senators, however, can afford to bide their time to get the right offer. He believes it unlikely the Senators will be able to re-sign the blueliner, noting contract extension discussions have stopped since Karlsson rejected an eight-year offer in early July.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Josh Lile wonders why the Dallas Stars passed up an opportunity to land an affordable upgrade like Max Pacioretty. He notes Karlsson and Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin are considered in play though the latter doesn’t seem like he’s moving. Karlsson still could but Lile suggests there’s no guarantee the Stars will land him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Melnyk’s remarks about rebuilding won’t surprise anyone. I’m assuming Senators fans aren’t so much upset over a rebuild as they are over how a roster that came within an overtime goal of reaching the 2017 Stanley Cup Final fell apart and is now being dismantled. Even if the coming rebuild is successful, their fans will likely expect the other shoe to drop as long as Melnyk owns the team.
The Senators could trade Karlsson before the start of training camp. There’s no question his status will be a huge distraction. Still, they can’t afford to move him simply to avoid constant questions about his future. They want the best return possible. If no one meets their asking price before Thursday, he’ll report to camp and the club will have to deal with the sideshow.
The Senators can afford to be patient for now. However, that’ll change if Karlsson’s still on the roster when the calendar flips to next February. As the trade deadline approaches, management will feel growing pressure to move Karlsson or risk losing him for nothing to free agency in July.
While the Golden Knights could still be interested in Karlsson, I think the Pacioretty acquisition will be their big move for the season. They could get into the bidding for the blueliner if he hits the open market next summer. The Stars and Lightning, who were most often linked to Karlsson earlier this summer, are the likely front-runners.
I wouldn’t rule out the Sharks going after Karlsson but I don’t think they’ve got sufficient available assets to outbid the Stars and Lightning. If Canucks GM Jim Benning is unwilling to part with any of his promising youngsters we can forget about Karlsson moving to Vancouver.
Those two new clubs mentioned by LeBrun could also make things interesting. Hopefully we’ll find out who they are in the coming days. They’ll have to have sufficient assets to entice Senators management while having enough salary-cap room to absorb Karlsson’s $6.5-million cap hit for this season and to re-sign him to a contract extension.
The Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers could fit the bill. However, we don’t know if those clubs would be on Karlsson’s list of preferred trade destinations, let alone if they’re willing to pursue such a big-ticket talent.