Perhaps the biggest trade that didn’t happen at the Feb. 26 NHL deadline was the Ottawa Senators moving Erik Karlsson. The 27-year-old defenceman has one more season on his contract before he becomes eligible for unrestricted free agent status and as the Ottawa Senators contemplate going into a rebuild, Karlsson is the player likely to bring back the most in a trade.
As the deadline approached, rumours swirled that Senators GM Pierre Dorion was trying to package Karlsson with Bobby Ryan to get the latter’s contract (four years left at $7.25 million) off the books. And it turns out, Ryan believed he and Karlsson had been moved on Sunday, the day before the deadline.
According to an Ottawa Sun article by Don Brennan, Ryan thought they were headed to a Western Conference team.
“I heard on Sunday it was done and somebody backed out at the last second,” Ryan told Brennan. “Karl and I were like, ‘pack it up’. We thought we were gone. That’s just the way it goes. Then you’re like, I’ve got to move again?
“I guess I’ll just wait and see how it goes in the summer. That’s all you can do.”
The Vegas Golden Knights were a Western Conference team often linked to Karlsson in rumours, and the Colorado Avalanche were a secondary team mentioned in the same breath.
The Senators were rumoured to be interested in making all sorts of deals, including the possibility of moving either Mark Stone or Mike Hoffman. In the end, the team traded Derick Brassard to Pittsburgh in a three-way deal that landed Ottawa goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson and two draft picks, then flipped Ian Cole and Nick Shore for prospect Nick Moutrey and a couple of picks.
After the deadline passed, owner Eugene Melnyk sent a letter to Senators fans in which he appeared to commit to rebuilding the team. The extent of this could be found out this summer, when more trades tend to happen since teams are looking to add to or re-shape their rosters, and can go over the cap by 10 per cent in the off-season.
“Enduring a tough year has given us a chance for clear-eyed evaluation. This is an ongoing process but I can tell you one thing: we are not looking to just tweak our lineup nor mortgage our future for stop-gap solutions,” Melnyk wrote.
“The kind of change required to reclaim our standing needs a change in approach, requires difficult decisions and commitment to a plan. As an organization, and community, it meant saying goodbye to some very good players this year – quality men who gave their all on the ice and in the community.
“As a team, we need to get younger, faster and more skilled. We have already announced several key steps to making that happen.”