As the sun came up on Monday, February 26th, Ottawa Senators fans were feeling sick to their stomach. They didn’t necessarily feel like that at the thought of a Mike Hoffman, Zack Smith or Bobby Ryan trade. It was due to a potential Erik Karlsson trade. Since Karlsson’s comments in December about how he’s going to get what he’s worth when he hits the market, things haven’t been the same in the nation’s capital. Monday morning was just the tip of the iceberg of a long stressful and anxious day for Sens fans.
Why Erik Karlsson remained an Ottawa Senator
The hottest commodity on Monday was no doubt superstar defender Erik Karlsson. He was on top of all the trade bait boards around the country in the early AM. When the day first began, there was no question general manager Pierre Dorion was fielding calls on forwards. In addition to shopping a bunch of his forwards, he was all in on dealing the team’s captain by the time the clock struck 3 PM. The two teams that Dorion was getting called by the most for Erik Karlsson were the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Vegas Golden Knights. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman was all about acquiring Karlsson for his team even before Trade Deadline day. Why were these two teams the ones that were among the heavily interested? For now, here’s why the Ottawa Senators didn’t move their captain.
In the misery season the Senators have had this year, trading their best roster player should be the last thing on their mind. Except for Pierre Dorion and Eugene Melnyk, it was all of their focus on Trade Deadline day. Heading into this season, management was pleased with the teams play from last season. Pierre Dorion stated many times that he was looking forward to this team taking a step closer to the Stanley Cup. Has it ever been the polar opposite of that? The Sens ask on Karlsson was a price no team was willing to match on Monday. Not only was Pierre Dorion looking for picks, he wanted a roster player from the team he was dealing Karlsson to. A big factor that played into this whole saga was that the Senators wanted to include Bobby Ryan‘s contract in the deal too.
What the Ottawa Senators asked for in return
From Tampa’s perspective, it was believed that the Sens were showing heavy interest in Tyler Johnson coming the other way. The Bobby Ryan factor might’ve scared Yzerman but it was not what held him back. It was the ask Pierre Dorion was asking beyond Tyler Johnson. The Senators showed interest in rookies Brayden Point and Mikhail Sergachev. Two players Steve Yzerman was showing no desire to give up on for Erik Karlsson and whatever else was in the deal. Trading two spectacular rookies and picks were something Yzerman didn’t want to do. The Lightning was looking to load up at the deadline, not subtract. When Yzerman realized a deal wasn’t close to happening, he made a different splash. Yzerman made a statement by acquiring defender Ryan McDonagh from the New York Rangers. The Lightning came into Trade Deadline day looking for a defender, and they got one.
The Vegas Golden Knights were a bit of a different story. With the dominance that they’ve had in their first season, they were buyers at the deadline. Let that settle in for a minute. When one looks at all the draft picks they consumed, they can see why they were able to buy. There wasn’t too many specific reports on what they were willing to give up, but you can imagine it’d be young players. Young prospects/rookies and picks are all the Senators ever asked for when approached about Erik Karlsson. Vegas was believed to be in on Karlsson up until the minute the clock struck midnight. Without speculating too much, you can assume the Senators most likely asked for 13th overall pick Nick Suzuki and more in return. Suzuki has been absolutely on fire with the Owen Sound Attack this season. Scoring 86 points in 56 games played.
Why the Vegas Golden Knights and Tampa Bay Lightning were starstruck for Erik Karlsson
All 31 teams most likely called in for Erik Karlsson at one point or another to see what it would take to acquire him. From all of the teams who inquired, Las Vegas and Tampa Bay were the two that stood out the most. But what was in it for the two? Why were they the ones that were the most persistent?
Tampa Bay Lightning
Let’s start with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Hockey fans heard it countless times by now, but the Lightning’s time to win is now. They have their core intact and they should be doing everything in their power to win sooner rather than later. With the Toronto Maple Leafs only getting better, the Lightning have competition ahead of them in the future. Yzerman’s blueline is already one of the best in the NHL. Victor Hedman has had a season to remember and has put himself in the Norris Trophy conversation by now. The image of Hedman and Karlsson running the blueline is something Yzerman was excited about heading into February 26th. The Lightning know they can afford to spend up to the cap for the next couple of years before Nikita Kucherov comes to the table to get paid. Which he definitely will be.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights are a different story. The interest runs deeper than just them wanting Karlsson due to his skill set. When Vegas began its staff hiring process, one of the first people they hired was Bob Lowes. Lowes was the Ottawa Senators director of amateur scouting at the time. One of the best scouts the Senators have ever had in recent memory. It’s hard to deny that when he heard about Karlsson being available, he didn’t offer a recommendation to general manager George McPhee.
Besides the internal relationships between Lowes and his previous team the Ottawa Senators, the skill set comes to mind. As mentioned earlier, Vegas’ dominance let them be buyers at the deadline. They already have a bunch of prospects and rookies they drafted/acquired. In addition to that, they’re having an inaugural season to remember. The biggest concern about the Golden Knights is if they can sustain this play heading into next season. An Erik Karlsson trade would ensure them that they have a player to build around, but they’d have very little room to make errors in the process. They’d have to build around Karlsson quickly this upcoming off-season although they’re having a great year. Which would mean stressful and hectic times for George McPhee. Like the Tampa Bay Lightning, they weren’t prepared to deal valuable picks and prospects for Karlsson. In this case, it made more sense. They’re an expansion team who are looking ahead to their future and don’t want to give up assets in case they get ahead of themselves.
Vegas still made noise on Monday. Acquiring Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar. Although they paid a hefty price, it was only draft picks that they traded away. Meaning that they still kept their prospect pipeline intact.
Vegas’ Upcoming Picks
Even after giving up three draft picks for Tatar, here are Vegas’ picks they still have for the 2018 NHL Draft.
- No 1st round pick. Possible that might change by the time June rolls our way.
- One 2nd round pick of their own
- No 3rd round pick. Possible to change
- Two 4th round picks. One from the Pittsburgh Penguins, the other from the Vancouver Canucks
- Two 5th round picks. One of their own and one from the Carolina Hurricanes.
- Two 6th round picks. One of their own and one from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- No 7th round pick
2019 is even stronger for the Las Vegas Golden Knights when it comes to picks. McPhee loaded up on picks in their first off-season before they hit the ice, and was able to use them to his advantage.
Pierre Dorion Stuck To His Guns
Whether Eugene Melnyk instructed Dorion to explore an Erik Karlsson trade or not, the situation is now toxic. Although Karlsson stated last week he feels no sense of dislike or awkwardness, it’s hard to imagine everything being all sunshine and rainbows. If Melnyk did indeed tell Dorion to look into trading their captain, Dorion didn’t budge when it came down to it. What happens next is to be determined. Dorion said that if Karlsson is still with the Ottawa Senators on July 1st, the team will offer the defender an extension. The situation might be unhealthy, but Erik Karlsson sounds devoted to remaining a Senator if he’s not moved at the draft this summer.
Pierre Dorion will continue to field calls on his superstar player, this time he’ll get even more offers from teams that are ready to unload for Karlsson. One thing remains to be said, will he fold to Vegas or will he keep Erik Karlsson apart of the Senators organization within the years to come?