Where Will Erik Karlsson End Up?
For months, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson has featured prominently in NHL trade rumors. Eligible for unrestricted free agent status next July, he reportedly rejected an eight-year contract extension earlier this summer.
With training camps opening later this month, Karlsson’s future remains a hot topic for trade debate among fans and pundits. Recent speculation suggests the Senators are trying to move him before the season opens in October. Many wonder where he could end up between now and the Feb. 25, 2019 trade deadline.
Here’s a look at the teams linked to Karlsson in the NHL rumor mill, placed in order of likely destinations. You can find all of this summer’s Karlsson trade chatter in my Rumors section.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Early July reports had the Lightning among the front-runners. At one point, a deal was rumored to be imminent but never materialized. Young Lightning players such as defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and center Brayden Point were assumed among those the Senators sought in return.
While Tampa Bay has considerable depth in promising talent to offer up in return, they lack sufficient salary-cap space to absorb Karlsson’s $6.5-million salary-cap hit for 2018-19. The Sens are apparently uninterested in absorbing any part of it. There was talk of Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman trying to bring a third team into the deal to free up some cap room, There was talk of the New York Rangers perhaps taking back winger Ryan Callahan if the Lightning also included a top prospect or high draft pick.
Recent speculation has Western Conference teams considered likely destinations for Karlsson. Still, don’t rule out the savvy Yzerman’s ability to pull off a deal.
The Stars were the first club reported to have contacted the Senators about Karlsson following his rejection of Ottawa’s contract extension. Some pundits still consider them the favorite to land the all-star defenseman.
Like the Lightning, they have plenty of promising youngsters in their system to tempt the Senators. Salary-cap space isn’t an issue this season. Re-signing Karlsson could be a problem if they’re unwilling to pay him more than Stars captain Jamie Benn, who carries an annual average value of $9.5 million.
The Senators apparently wanted top defense prospect Miro Heiskanen as part of the return but the Stars didn’t want to part with him. If the Sens won’t lower their asking price it’s doubtful Karlsson lands in Dallas.
Vegas Golden Knights
Their interest in Karlsson goes back to last season’s NHL trade deadline last February, where a potential deal reportedly fell through at the last minute. The sticking point could the Senators’ desire to package winger Bobby Ryan and his $7.25-million cap hit through 2021-22 with Karlsson.
Like the Stars, the Golden Knights have the depth in prospects to entice the Senators and the cap space to take on Karlsson’s annual average value for this season. They also have room to sign him to an extension.
If the Golden Knights remain interested in Karlsson they’ll likely have to part with promising blueliner Shea Theodore as part of the return. A top prospect such as Cody Glass or Erik Brannstrom will also have to be included.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks were also said to have kicked tires on Karlsson’s availability prior to the trade deadline. No word on how serious trade discussions were. Sharks GM Doug Wilson ultimately acquired left wing Evander Kane at the deadline and re-signed him several months later to a new contract.
Wilson has a long history of making big trade acquisitions so it wouldn’t be shocking if he revisits his interest in Karlsson. During the summer, he attempted to sign free-agent forwards Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares. Trade rumors also linked San Jose to Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty.
While the Sharks currently have around $4.3 million in cap room Wilson could free up additional space by moving a salaried player to the Senators. However, he could lack sufficient available assets to outbid the Lightning, Stars and Golden Knights.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently set the rumor mill abuzz by tweeting the Vancouver Canucks had looked into Karlsson’s availability. Canucks GM Jim Benning subsequently denied that report but he’s not about to confirm interest in another team’s player, especially after being fined for tampering two years ago.
The rebuilding Canucks have sufficient cap space to add Karlsson this season and re-sign him before next summer. They also have considerable depth in budding talent on their roster and promising prospects within their system.
Benning, however, claims he’s unwilling to part with any of his best young players and prospects. Karlsson, meanwhile, might not be keen to join a rebuilding club at this stage in his career.