This is not a match many would have seen coming, but TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the San Jose Sharks are among the teams that have had talks with the Ottawa Senators about all-world defenseman Erik Karlsson. The rumors are growing that Karlsson could be moved ahead of Monday’s trade deadline or, at least, this off-season. Could the Sharks be a dark horse destination?
In a way, it makes sense. Ever since it was revealed that Senators GM Pierre Dorion was seeking a team to take the contract of Bobby Ryan – $7.25MM over four more years – as part of any deal for Eriksson, it narrowed the field considerably of who could possibly even afford to acquire such players, without bringing in a third team. One such team that is a contender and could afford to bring in both Karlsson and Ryan are the Sharks, who will have over $18MM in salary cap space entering the off-season. LeBrun also notes that it is not out of the ordinary for Sharks GM Doug Wilson to inquire into every available player. LeBrun calls San Jose “big-game hunters”, citing their trades for Joe Thornton and Brent Burns over the years and their push to sign Steven Stamkos two years ago. The Sharks have also been mentioned as a possible destination for John Tavares, should he decide not to re-sign with the New York Islanders.
However, one has to wonder if this rumor is more fiction than fact. While the Sharks may have the cap space and the big splash history, the fit doesn’t make much sense. The reason the team has had interest in Stamkos and Tavares is because they need another major piece up front, especially with 38-year-old Thornton unlikely to return. There is no similar concern on the blue line. Burns is fresh off a Norris Trophy last season and right up there with Karlsson as one of the best defenseman in the league. He’s also signed for seven more years to the tune of $56MM. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is one of the league’s top defensive rearguards and begins his own eight-year, $56MM extension next season. Justin Braun and Brenden Dillon are both in their primes and signed for two more years at reasonable rates, while youngsters Dylan DeMelo and Joakim Ryan have taken a step forward this season. Even the system is well-stocked, with promising blue liners like Jeremy Roy, currently in the AHL, and Mario Ferraro of UMass. The Sharks are a top-ten team in goals against and shots against and arguably the best penalty kill unit in the NHL. Defense is the least of their worries, so why then would they sell off multiple high-value assets and take on a terrible contract to acquire, of all things, another defenseman? The answer is they wouldn’t. No one can blame Wilson for checking in, if he did, but more likely this is the Senators exaggerating interest to drive up the price on Karlsson. Don’t expect a top pairing of Norris Trophy winners in San Jose any time soon, unless Vlasic is ever rewarded for his stellar two-way play.