Projecting What The Columbus Blue Jackets Would Need To Trade To Acquire Erik Karlsson

By Dan Dukart on July 3, 2018 at 8:57 pm
Marc Desrosiers / Agence QMI

How about this for fireworks?

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman mentioned in a Tuesday radio hit that Columbus is a potential landing spot for Ottawa Senators star defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Hoo, boy. Lots to unpack here.

First off, this post is responding to a report. Karlsson is almost certainly going to be moved at some point, but it's really speculation at this point. The point of this post isn't to misconstrue the reader, more so to illustrate just how expensive acquiring a player of Karlsson's ilk would be. 

Before we dig in, a bit of background: The Ottawa Senators are in full rebuild mode just one full season removed from being one goal away from the Stanley Cup Final. Since then, things have been, well, bad.

It's a long story, but here's the short: Karlsson, with one year left on his contract, is almost certain to be traded as the Senators rebuild. But because of the acquisition of Matt Duchene from the Avalanche, they don't have a 1st round pick in the 2019 draft. So while conventional wisdom says it's time to rebuild, putting an eye to the future would theoretically help the Avalanche more than it would the Senators.

Since the other 30 NHL GMs know that Senators GM Pierre Dorion is in a world of hurt, they can afford to low-ball him, knowing it's unlikely that Karlsson re-signs with the club. 

Karlsson's contract status is also an impediment. There was speculation that the right-handed shooting puck wizard would be traded at the trade deadline (or at the recent draft) but with less than a year remaining until Karlsson hits unrestricted free agency, any team acquiring him would likely tread lightly without at least some reassurance that they can lock Karlsson up to a contract extension.

Sounds a bit like the Artemi Panarin situation, no?

Let's play through this. If Columbus really is interested in bringing the star Swede to Columbus – for a year, even – what would it look like?

For starters, Ottawa will require a 2019 first-round pick, as they'll be eyeing a futures heavy return. Columbus doesn't have a second-round pick in 2019, thanks to the David Clarkson/Vegas Golden Knights trade that just won't go away. But one draft pick won't be enough, so a 2020 second-round pick would also likely be in play.

Ottawa would command prospects, or at least, a high-end prospect. Vitaly Abramov would be a steep price to pay, but that may be the cost of doing business for a player of Karlsson's skill. Ryan Murray, still just 24 years of age, and Sonny Milano, 22, would make sense as they're young players who could flourish with more of a role.

Other pieces could be in play, too. Moving David Savard in a Karlsson deal would make some sense for both sides. He would help even out the cash in a trade, and with Karlsson and Seth Jones being right-handed shots, Savard would be overpaid and underutilized as a third-pairing defender in Columbus. But if a Karlsson trade to Columbus happened, the Blue Jackets wouldn't have a hard time finding a new home for Savard, so consider him outside of the scope of this theoretical trade. 

Further complicating things is Senators winger Bobby Ryan, who at age 31, is worth significantly less than his $7.25M contract will continue to pay him for the next four years. Ottawa would love to lose his contract, but would have to take a worse deal, not a better one, to rid themselves of that contract.

Erik Karlsson, Seth Jones, and Zach Werenski on the blueline is just an absolute embarrassment of riches for an NHL team. With Karlsson (and Panarin) a year away from UFA, I'm not sure acquiring Karlsson even makes sense, and maybe that would be true even if he wasn't almost a UFA. Would Karlsson's potential arrival be enough to convince Panarin that Columbus is the right place for him to sign long-term? Who can say.

The Senators are in a bad place. Karlsson is almost certainly moving on from the team, if not now then soon. The same can be said for Duchene, goaltender Craig Anderson, and probably many of the other six players on expiring contracts this year. They don't have a first round pick in 2019, so tanking (which definitely doesn't happen, nope) isn't even a viable option.

Trading Karlsson is likely to happen, but when? Every minute we get closer to the deadline could mean a lesser deal on the table for Dorion. Acquiring Karlsson would make sense for just about any team in the league, but one could argue it's a redundant play for the Blue Jackets, with so much high-end skill at the position already while lacking the requisite high-end skill to compete at the center position.

Drop us a comment below if you agree, or disagree, with that trade proposal. 

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