While trade talk surrounding top defenseman Erik Karlsson seemed to have died down in recent weeks, general manager Pierre Dorion has recently stirred the rumor mill right back up again after making comments about Karlsson on Thursday to NHL.com’s Chris Stevenson.
“Our first priority with Erik is to sign him,” Dorion said. “He’s a special player, but Wayne Gretzky got traded, so, if a team offers you an offer you can’t turn down, you listen. But our first priority is to sign Erik Karlsson and [for] Erik Karlsson to be a Senator for life.”
The 27-year-old blueliner made headlines back in early December when he said that while he loves playing in Ottawa, he has no intention of taking a hometown discount when his contract expires after next season. The comments began much trade speculation which spiraled out of control and the Senators have worked hard to dismiss any interest in moving out their star player, until now.
However, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman had more to say Friday on Dorion’s comments on an appearance on Sportsnet’s 590.
“I guess they’re just laying the groundwork for the possibility (Karlsson) could get traded. I think that’s what they’re saying,” Friedman said. “Look, I think Erik Karlsson wants to be an Ottawa Senator for the rest of his career. That’s his first choice, to me. But I think there’s a lot of players there who doubt they can win under current ownership — I think he’s one of them. I think his preference would be to stay under different ownership. But I think the Senators sent the word out that ‘If you really are serious, give us a call with a serious offer.’”
Karlsson hasn’t been as effective as in previous years for Ottawa this year, although he remains the team’s top defenseman by far. The two-time Norris Trophy winner, who had 17 goals and 71 points last year, currently has three goals and 30 points in 38 games this year, although he spent his offseason recovering from foot surgery and needed time to return to form after missing time at the start of this season. He also sports a minus-19 plus/minus ratio.
Dozens of teams have been linked to rumors of interest in the star blueliner including the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators are expected to make several moves to rebuild after a disappointing season this year, could quicken a rebuild with a quality trade return for Karlsson, although Dorion does hold out hope they can lock up Karlsson to a long-term deal.