After the last few weeks have brought little in terms of trade speculation around the NHL, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet has sparked the fire again surrounding Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators. Friedman tweets that trade talks involving the superstar defenseman have picked up recently, with Western Conference destinations—potentially including the Vancouver Canucks—as the most likely. West teams like the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars had previously been linked to Karlsson, though it’s unclear if they’re included in the recent discussions.
For Vancouver the acquisition of Karlsson would seem unlikely, given that the team is still rebuilding and there is no guarantee that the Senators defenseman would be open to an extension. Iain MacIntyre of Sportsnet tweets that Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson are all completely off the table for the Canucks, making it hard to imagine a package strong enough to beat any other contender for Karlsson’s services. Interestingly MacIntyre does not mention top prospect Olli Juolevi, though that doesn’t necessarily mean he would be available.
There are obviously dozens of other teams in the NHL who would be interested in Karlsson, though many of them won’t be able to afford an extension that could push towards Drew Doughty’s eight-year $88MM contract. Ottawa would likely receive the biggest return from a team that can immediately extend Karlsson, but that could also dramatically reduce their trading partners. The Golden Knights have the prospect capital and cap space to fit a star like Karlsson in, and the Colorado Avalanche have a trade chip that no one else in the league can match. That’s the Senators own first-round pick this season, acquired in the Matt Duchene trade from last season. After Ottawa chose to keep their 2018 pick and select Brady Tkachuk, they had to give up the 2019 pick and a potential opportunity at top prospect Jack Hughes. With the Senators expected to struggle this season—especially if Karlsson departs—the Avalanche could easily be holding a top-three pick in their pocket. For what it’s worth, Adrian Dater of BSN Denver isn’t hearing any connection with the Avalanche and Karlsson.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the other team strongly linked to Karlsson in the past, and it’s unclear if they still pose a threat to acquire the defenseman. That would require Tampa Bay moving out other salary, but would make them an absolute powerhouse in the Eastern Conference and the favorite for a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. All of the other teams in the Atlantic Division will be hoping that the Senators’ captain heads out west and signs a long-term contract to stay out of their way.