The biggest domino to drop this summer will be Erik Karlsson. Ottawa’s franchise face is at a crossroads with the organization, and a breakup looks quite possible. In fact, it appeared quite close back at the trade deadline in February.
If Ottawa is ever going to deal Karlsson, now is the time. He’s entering the final year of his contract, and the trade value will only decrease from here. If Ottawa is unable to get a contract extension off the ground in the coming months, then a trade becomes inevitable. 30 other NHL teams will be lining up for Karlsson’s services if that is the case.
Why Is He Out There?:
As mentioned above, the Senators might not be able to re-sign Karlsson when he becomes eligible for an extension on July 1st. Not only is money an issue, and it absolutely is for the Sens, but Karlsson’s relationship with ownership has become quite murky in the last year.
There is a lot of bad blood here, and it appears both sides are more than open to an end to the relationship. This is an elite player, and the only reason he is even possibly out there is because of his contract and relationship with ownership.
What Does He Do Well?:
Everything. No, seriously, Karlsson does everything well. In my mind, he is the best defender I have ever seen in the NHL. Of course, I was born in 1994 and missed a lot of great players, but Karlsson just edges out Chris Pronger for best defender I’ve seen play in my lifetime.
He’s extremely quick, transitions the puck well, and is the best offensive defender in the game today by a country mile. Even in a down year, Karlsson still posted 62 points in 71 games (9-52-62).
Karlsson has hit the 60 point mark in each of the last five seasons, including a career high 82 (16-66-82) during the 2015-16 campaign. Karlsson was the catalyst for Ottawa a year ago, helping the Sens to game seven of the Eastern Conference Final against Pittsburgh. There were stretches during that playoff run where he simply carried the Senators.
Karlsson, since the start of the 2013-14 season, has been, without question, the best offensive defender in hockey. His point totals since then are 74 (13-14), 66 (14-15), 82 (15-16), 71 (16-17) and 62 this past season.
Ottawa, since Guy Boucher took over prior to the 2016-17 season, has been a possession black hole. Karlsson, however, has still been pushing the puck in the right direction. He finished with a Corsi For % of 51.4 while averaging 26:44 per game.
Here’s a look at Karlsson’s scouting report via The Hockey News.
Assets: Is a smooth skater with exceptional hockey sense and puck-moving control, dangle and goal-scoring ability. He’s incredibly quick and loves to pounce on the attack. Also possesses a booming slap shot, which he uses to produce on the power play. He plays with an outstanding level of confidence when he has the puck on his blade.
Flaws: Size is somewhat of an issue for him, as he’s smallish for the blueline position at the National Hockey League level. So, strength can be an issue for him. Struggles with defensive-zone coverage at times, and isn’t an ideal shutdown defenseman due to his limitations when he doesn’t have the puck. Can wear down with overuse.
Career Potential: Elite offensive defenseman
Where Will He Play/Where Should He Play?:
Erik Karlsson is one of the best defenders in the NHL and is an unquestioned top-pairing defender. In my mind, he’s the best in the NHL today and would be the number one option on 31 teams. Edmonton, obviously, included.
He’d be the Oilers’ best defensive option by a mile, and I truly mean no disrespect to guys like Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson.
What Will He Cost?:
At a bare minimum, Edmonton would have to trade the 10th overall pick in June’s entry draft. I’d imagine Edmonton’s 2019 first would also have to be involved, considering Ottawa won’t have a pick. The Sens will want a young NHL defender back, so Darnell Nurse would have to head to the nation’s capital as part of this deal.
A young forward, perhaps Jesse Puljujarvi, or another high pick would need to head to the Senators in any Karlsson trade. It’s going to be a very expensive trade package.
In terms of a contract, Karlsson has one year left on a deal that will count $6,500,000 on the cap. It’s a manageable number this season, but to get an extension done Karlsson will likely require a cap hit around $11-$12 million a season for seven years.
I don’t care the cost via trade, if you can get Erik Karlsson you absolutely have to try to make it work. He’s the best defender in hockey, a truly elite player, and could give Edmonton the best duo (McDavid/Karlsson) since Ja Rule and Ashanti hopped in the studio.
This is a player with no flaws, and one who could honestly make Edmonton a Stanley Cup contender overnight when teamed up with McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Oscar Klefbom.
The reality of the situation, sadly, is that there is a salary cap. The Oilers would have to get really creative to fit Karlsson in moving forward, and even then I’m not sure it is possible. It’s fun to dream about, it’s fun to say ‘what if’, but in the end Karlsson and the Oilers are an unlikely mix because of salary cap issues moving forward in Edmonton.