6:03 PM: TSN’s Darren Dreger reports (Twitter link) that the Rangers are a team that could potentially be involved as the cap facilitator. Meanwhile, Joe Smith of The Athletic adds (via Twitter) that winger Ryan Callahan is in play for this move. He has a 16-team trade list.
3:28 PM: The rumor mill has been working overtime this morning on a potential Ottawa Senators-Tampa Bay Lightning trade revolving around superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson, and now Travis Yost of TSN tweets that the teams are in the process of trying to find a third party to facilitate the deal, as balancing salaries is a key part of any transaction of this magnitude. Karlsson is expected to only be traded to a team if a contract extension can be worked out, while the Lightning are not expected to be one of the teams willing to eat Bobby Ryan’s contract. That contract could be exactly why the third team needs to be involved, though Tampa Bay themselves would likely need to move out contracts to fit in a Karlsson extension.
Remember that nothing is final at this point, and since the stakes in any potential blockbuster Karlsson trade are so high things can change at any moment. Just two days ago the Dallas Stars were considered the clear front runners, though now everything seems to be pointing towards the Lightning.
Karlsson is reportedly looking for a contract extension similar to the eight-year, $88MM deal that Drew Doughty recently signed, which would put any team in a financial bind. The Lightning, who know their way around superstar contracts, could potentially fit him in since they’ve inked their other top players to reasonable extensions the last few years. Steven Stamkos ($8.5MM AAV), Victor Hedman ($7.875MM) and Ryan McDonagh ($6.75MM) have all signed relatively team-friendly deals instead of going to free agency, and though the team still needs to sign Nikita Kucherov to a mega-deal, they even have some cap space remaining for the upcoming season.
There are obvious candidates for the Lightning to move to clear more room. Ryan Callahan ($5.8MM), Tyler Johnson ($5.0MM), Alex Killorn ($4.45MM) are all expendable long-term contracts given the emergence of several young players, while Anton Stralman ($4.5MM), Braydon Coburn ($3.7MM) and Dan Girardi ($3.0MM) are defensemen on expiring contracts who could be moved out given Karlsson’s impact on the blue line. The superstar defenseman only costs $6.5MM this season, meaning jettisoning just one of the above players would give the team enough cap space to acquire him.
Remember that teams during the offseason can go up to 10%, or $7.95MM, over the salary cap ceiling but must be compliant again by the beginning of the season. Even if Tampa Bay doesn’t find a taker for one of their contracts, they could still potentially acquire Karlsson only to find a way to get under the cap ceiling by the beginning of the year.