The Ottawa Senators have been adamant leading up to the trade deadline that star defenseman and captain Erik Karlsson is unavailable. However, a report surfaced on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday that there’s still a chance Karlsson could move before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
I keep getting told the same thing, and that is “don’t be surprised if Erik Karlson’s traded within the next nine days.” Now Chris, you mentioned last week, we know where the Ottawa Senators stand, they want to get the message out that he’s unavailable. But as one general manager told me yesterday, “if you’re not prepared to make him the highest paid player,” — and their is a belief that he could get there — “then why would you not explore the maximum value on his return?” And we know that it’s going to be this trade deadline. His contract doesn’t expire until 2019, teams will be trading for at least two opportunities to win a Cup opposed to one at the draft.
Kypreos does not mention that any specific teams are in on Karlsson, only that the Senators’ reluctance to pay the defenseman his full due may result in them moving him should they reconsider their stance.
This season, Karlsson has put up 40 points in 52 games with the Senators. The 27-year-old defenseman has just five goals on the season, a far cry from his 17 he put up last season and the 16 he had a year before. Karlsson was asked, along with the rest of the Senators, to give up his no-trade list back in December, but all signs indicated that he was likely to stay.
The reason Karlsson’s name has come up so much, however, is his contract. The defenseman has two years left on his seven-year, $45.5 million deal he signed with the Senators back in 2012. While the Senators still have a bit of time to re-sign the defenseman, Karlsson came out in early December and stated he wants to sign for “market value” on a team that currently has just $1.34 million in cap space.
Karlsson’s is the NHL’s best defenseman and will no doubt exceed the $9 million annual cap hit the highest paid blue liner, P.K. Subban, has. As Kypreos eluded to, there’s talk that Karlsson should be the league’s highest paid player. Right now, the NHL’s biggest contract belongs to Connor McDavid and his $12.5 million annual cap hit for the next eight years.
Even if the NHL’s cap goes up in the future, as it is supposed to, Karlsson’s market value contract is a hefty price to pay. The defenseman is well within his rights to ask for — and earn — such a contract, but the Senators are in a tough position to pay that deal. That’s why the team has stated they’re open for business on most players at this trade deadline, except for Karlsson.
The Senators have had a tough decline since playing in the Eastern Conference Final against Pittsburgh a season ago. A miserable season compacted with the conundrum of Karlsson has made for a hard fall, one that even owner Eugene Melnyk has become tired of. Ottawa may say Karlsson’s unavailable, but in this league with expanding talent and a slowly increasing salary cap, anything is possible.