I originally put this in the “Quick Hitters” for part 4 of my NHL trade deadline preview but figured it better to give this its own home.
Seemingly because of a degrading relationship between Karlsson and the Senators’ ownership and management, he suddenly seems destined to be traded if not during the trade deadline then during the offseason.
If the Senators are willing to accept a massive pile of futures the best time to do the bidding war might be now with teams possibly willing to pay more to have him for the 2018 playoffs. But if instead the Senators would like to receive an actual player or two in return for Erik Karlsson which seems reasonable for a generational talent at his position, then the Senators will be better-served to wait until the offseason when the bidding war could be bigger.
Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes are eight years into a playoff-less desert and though they very much have a chance to end the drought, they are also very much in a dog fight that could end with a call for yet another of patience. But maybe more significantly than the need to become good enough to make the playoffs is an increasing feeling among many that there still needs to be a bigger change that jolts the culture, vibe, attitude or whatever other word you want to the challenge of pushing over the hump psychologically in addition to talent-wise.
Enter Erik Karlsson. Enter the Carolina Hurricanes.
Because of years of spendthrifty ways, budget limitations and then later a rebuilding project, the Hurricanes have to be about last on most people’s list of teams that might be in bidding for and potentially winning Erik Karlsson. But I actual think it makes sense once you consider both sides of the transaction.
From the Ottawa Senators side
Again, I have to think that the Senators would like to get more than a pile of ‘might work out’ draft picks back for a generational talent on the blue line. One issue will be filling the void left by Karlsson’s departure. The other is simply getting enough in return. In terms of filling the void, the Carolina Hurricanes could offer Justin Faulk. Faulk is not Karlsson, but he is a proven top 4 NHL defenseman who brings offensive ability. Faulk’s 55 goals scored since the start of the 2014-15 season are only four fewer than Karlsson’s total. Faulk is under contract for two more years after the 2017-18 season at a very reasonable cap hit of $4.8 million. And Faulk is actually two years younger than Karlsson. The point is not that Faulk is as good as Karlsson or an equal replacement. He is not. But if the Senators want to fill that spot in the lineup, Faulk represents much more than just chucking whoever there.
So that is obviously not a 1-for-1 deal. Then I think the way that the Hurricanes make it interesting is by adding Haydn Fleury. Fleury is a big skating skating defenseman who is only 21 years old and with a high draft pedigree and top 4 potential. And with most of a year of NHL play under his belt, Fleury trumps whatever other list of pure, unproven prospects teams might offer. He might be learning on the job to some degree, but right now Fleury is actually playing with Faulk in the top 4.
I will leave it to someone else to sort out what the other smaller piece are, but if the Senators are not keen on collecting a massive pile of maybes for 2-4 years from now, this starting point has to at least be interesting to Ottawa. There are no guarantees especially Fleury, but at least potentially, the Senators added a top 4 defense pairing which while maybe not equating to Erik Karlsson is a pretty good trade haul.
From the Carolina Hurricanes side
The biggest thing from the Hurricanes side is the increasing sense from many who track the team closely that something significant still needs to happen. The team is theoretically better in 2017-18 and looks it at times. But in terms of results, the team is worse and in terms of the fuzzy stuff mentioned above something just seems to be missing.
In addition, I have been clamoring since last May that the team desperately needed to add an offensive catalyst. The common version of this and the one I called out was a higher-end playmaking center. But because of his elite offensive ability, could Erik Karlsson do the same thing from the back end while also being the change agent that many think the team needs.
No doubt giving up a young top 4 defenseman and another young defenseman who is arguably close to being the same is a lot to give up in any trade. But then Erik Karlsson is not just any trade. At the beginning of the 2017-18 season, if one made a list of the most untouchable players in the NHL, Karlsson would have been high on that list. When strange things happen right now and the door cracks open to add a player like him, I think Francis has to at least take a chance, and what’s more I think he can do better than that.
Some will mention the very real risk that Karlsson flees to free agency after the 2018-19 season. But at a bare minimum, that offers two chances to take the next step and return to the playoffs and a good run of time for Karlsson to adjust to his team mates, the organization and the city of Raleigh before deciding if he wants to up and move again. Worth noting is also the fact that Justin Faulk’s contract runs only one year longer than Karlsson’s, so having to deal with a free agent defenseman in a few years time is not really something that is added versus the current situation. And finally for the two years, the impact is modest for the current year and next with Karlsson costing $1.5 million (actual salary) more than Faulk next year.
Again, I will leave it to someone else to sort out what other pieces make this trade happen, but part of it could be the Hurricanes taking Johnny Oduya simply to add another depth defenseman to fill Fleury’s spot with veteran help for the 2017-18 season before turning to younger players in 2018-19.
Shorter version: 1) The Hurricanes have assets to both fill Karlsson’s slot and add upside in the form of player who is young but a step or two past the pure prospect stage; 2) The Hurricanes need to do something to push over the hump – this could be it.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Once you get past the point that the Carolina Hurricanes have not historically been even in the discussion on deals like this, do you think this could actually have some merit?
2) What is the price it takes and would you do it? Is Faulk and Fleury enough or does there still need to be futures too?
3) What are the chances?