There has to be a lot on the minds of the Ottawa Senators ownership right about now. Coming into Saturday, the Senators have lost 10 of their last 11 games and have since plummeted into seventh in the Atlantic Division. An inefficient offensive effort that has scored just 76 goals in 27 games alongside less-than-stellar goaltending has the Senators holding onto a 9-11-7 record.
As such, the Senators, much like one other sinking NHL team, are calling upon desperate measures to get themselves out of this funk. That includes, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, a plan to ask each of their 10 players with no-trade clauses to offer up their list of teams they don’t want to be dealt to. One of those players with a no-trade clause? Star defenseman Erik Karlsson himself.
NHL no-trade clauses are often a staple for the league’s top tier of players, giving a team’s star athletes a sense of stability by allowing them to have to consent to be traded. The Senators have 10 players, including Karlsson, with modified no-trade clauses, meaning each player has a list teams they do not want to be traded to.
While, according to Friedman, Karlsson may have to offer up his list of names, that does not mean a trade is incoming.
“I was told that does not mean 100 percent that Erik Karlsson is getting traded. It just opens the option, but I still don’t think it’s likely,” Friedman said on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday evening.
We’re still a season and some change from seeing Karlsson’s contract expire with the Senators, but that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from whirling. After Karlsson told the Ottawa Sun at the start of December that he’s going to sign for nothing less than market value in his next contract, ruling out the possibility of a hometown discount, there’s been some chatter about the Senators’ next steps.
That declaration that he’ll receive market value in Ottawa, or elsewhere, when contract talks come around has seemingly ruffled feathers in the Senators’ organization. According to insider Nick Kypreos, team owner Eugene Melnyk was not pleased with the public statement, but they are “trying to move past that.”
We’ve only really just begun seeing the potential headache Karlsson’s contract talks will be. Karlsson is on the books with the Senators until the end of the 2018-19 season, but will likely be a topic of conversation at this year’s trade deadline and free agency market thanks to his impending negotiations. Stars in this league can get re-signed as early as possible, or way late in the game during the player’s free agency period, and there’s no telling how these talks will go.
Karlsson is the Senators’ centerpiece, but market value for a defenseman of his caliber will be far north of P.K. Subban’s $9 million cap hit per season. Subban is currently the NHL’s highest-paid defenseman in terms of cap hit, but Karlsson is likely to smash that to smithereens, either in Ottawa or elsewhere.
Currently, Karlsson is on a steal of a seven-year, $45.5 million deal with an AAV of $6.5 million per season. That ranks 11th best of all active NHL defensemen.
We’ve stated before how hard it will be for Ottawa to re-sign Karlsson in two years’ time given how much he’ll likely command in terms of salary cap space. The Senators have a lot to juggle in relation to Karlsson and what they believe their franchise’s direction in the future will be.
What seems to be certain is that Karlsson will at least remain with the team through this rough stretch. There’s no reason for the Senators to trade Karlsson now, despite the defenseman having just one point in 11 games coming into Saturday. The entire Senators team is struggling, and trading Karlsson away now exacerbates their problems in the short-term.
For now, the Senators’ best bet is to either ride out the storm or trade away one of their aging veterans in Bobby Ryan, Derick Brassard, or Craig Anderson to shuffle the deck. The problem of Karlsson’s impending payday can wait until another day.