What a difference a few weeks can make.
It goes without saying that every team wants a player like Karlsson. But which ones actually have a shot? Sportsnet insiders Elliotte Friedman, Chris Johnston, and Nick Kypreos shared the latest reports during Saturday’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada.
“Whatever gets said, the belief is the Ottawa Senators want to try to make this happen and Erik Karlsson wants it to happen, and they have been grinding away in the last two or three days to see if they can,” Friedman said. “Obviously Tampa Bay is a leading contender, I think they’ve thrown several different proposals at each other.”
The Lightning’s position as a strong Stanley Cup contender makes them an appealing franchise for one of the top rearguards in the league, and much has also been made of Karlsson’s friendship with fellow Swede Victor Hedman, which was on full display during the NHL All-Star Weekend last month.
“The one thing is … teams believe there are stealth contenders out there — teams that haven’t been in the news,” explained Friedman. “One of them that has popped up a bit is Nashville.”
The Predators already have an incredible foursome on their blue line, and we’ve learned that GM David Poile isn’t afraid to make a splash on the trade market, though Friedman cautioned that some teams think Poile “is just trying to drive up the price for others.”
“But there’s no question, there is a belief there’s other teams out there that we don’t know,” he said.
One theory that has been floated includes Bobby Ryan as part of a package deal with Karlsson in an effort to get his heavy $7.25-million cap hit off Ottawa’s books. The often-injured forward has four seasons remaining on the seven-year, $50.75-million contract he signed with the Senators back in 2014.
“A tremendous amount of speculation as to what this might look like, of course, with Bobby Ryan’s contract being floated out there as something the Ottawa Senators would like to do,” Johnston said. “Today there was word of a potential four-team deal which would involve Vegas, maybe Montreal, Tampa, Ottawa. That’s a lot more fiction than fact. I don’t believe that’s something that is going to happen.
“What is important to Ottawa in this trade is that it’s a hockey deal,” Johnston explained. “And even if Bobby Ryan’s contract is somehow included in this sort of thing, they have to get players back because they believe they’re trading the best defenceman in the NHL and they know that this is going to be a tough one to make. The best thing Pierre Dorion can do is hang up the phone, and that I think is going to be a driving factor in the final 42 hours here leading up to the deadline.”
So, if Tampa Bay is indeed the leading candidate to land Karlsson, what might that trade look like?
“There’s a real sense that [Lightning GM] Steve Yzerman wants to get this deal done without changing up his roster — that he has as many as five or six pieces in the framework of picks and prospects,” said Kypreos. “But I’m told, as of tonight — and we know it’s a moving target and who knows what it looks like Sunday or Monday? — but as of now, Ottawa is saying, ‘No, we need a player off your roster. A significant one.'”
The Lightning have several young players that would likely be coveted by a number of teams, but the question here is whether or not Yzerman would be willing to part with them.
“I’m sure the names Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde have come up, but at the very least it might even cost them [Vladislav] Namestnikov and we know how important he is to the first line in Tampa Bay,” said Kypreos. “But Ottawa wants a major piece back.”
Friedman believes if it’s Namestnikov the Senators are after, “that’s something that Tampa would do.”
Senators planning to flip Cole before deadline
The Senators have been one of the busiest teams on the trade market this season — they dealt Kyle Turris to Nashville and landed Matt Duchene from Colorado in a three-team trade back in the fall — and played a starring role in Friday’s complicated three-team trade that saw Derick Brassard head to Pittsburgh via Vegas, with plenty of picks and prospects also changing hands.
One of the pieces involved in Friday’s deal was defenceman Ian Cole, but he won’t be a Senator for long.
“[The Senators] made the decision to leave him in the U.S., they didn’t want to go through any of the immigration process because they do plan to flip him before Monday’s deadline,” Johnston said. “We’ve seen the price established on rental defencemen, [former Oiler] Brandon Davidson getting a third this week, the same as [ex-Ranger] Nick Holden. Perhaps it’s a second you’re looking at for Ottawa for Ian Cole, and that’s a pretty nice return when you factor in the first round pick and the prospect they got — Filip Gustavsson the goaltender, who they are very high on — in the deal for Derick Brassard.”
Teams have until 3 p.m. ET on Monday, Feb. 26 to complete trades. The clock is ticking.