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Don’t Trade Erik Karlsson

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Rumours are Swirling Around the Captain

NHL: Ottawa Senators at San Jose Sharks
The Captain in his Element
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The writing at Silver Seven Sens exists in an oftentimes nebulous middle ground between fandom and what might be considered traditional sports journalism. As the old saying goes: “There’s no cheering in the press box”. There is definitely cheering on these pages, and I actually don’t believe that it has a negative impact on the quality of the work, but we do strive to be factual and thoughtful in our analysis. On this topic, however, there is no room to be measured. This is a plea to Guy Boucher, and Pierre Dorion — but especially Eugene Melnyk: Do not trade Erik Karlsson.

You probably have a list of things you’d be willing to do in order to improve the state of the franchise. Maybe trading Karlsson is on that list. Here’s what should be done before trading the team’s one true talisman: literally everything else. Fire Boucher. Fire Dorion. Fire Missing Chiclets. Fire the mascot. Trade Cody Ceci (one for one, naturally). Trade Bobby Ryan. Trade Dion Phaneuf. Trade Mark friggin Stone. You do all of those things, every last one of them, before you trade Erik Karlsson. Maybe after a year of doing nothing but turning the whole franchise upside down and in the meanwhile he’s rebuffed your attempts to sign him to a long term contract extension, maybe then you should be willing to entertain the possibility of dealing the captain. MAYBE.

This particular batch of trouble has been brewing for a couple of weeks now, essentially since Karlsson said that he wouldn’t take a discount no matter where he went. Things have come to a head since then as the team has played a stunningly poor brand of hockey that’s led to a 1-9-2 record in their last 12. During last night’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, we reached a new level as Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos opined on the situation:

You can read a more complete summary of their talking points here, but the key thing is that the Senators are even considering this as a possibility. They should stop considering it because Erik Karlsson isn’t the problem.

The stars of any given hockey team shoulder a disproportionate amount of the blame for team failures as it is, but in this case it’s particularly unfair. Karlsson is this team. Even after this stunning run of poor play, he still has 19 points in 22 games and is one of the only players with a positive shot differential. When he’s on the ice, the team is very good but when he’s off the ice they are a Mickey Mouse outfit. Just look at this depiction of how Karlsson’s teammates fare with and without him, courtesy of hockeyviz.com:

“Look at God”
Karlsson’s WOWY

This gets at the second reason why the possibility of trading Karlsson shouldn’t even be discussed: anything you might get back for him won’t help you. Trading Karlsson would effectively end any possibility of contending in the near term, that much is clear. If the Sens are going to try to trade Karlsson, then, they might as well blow the whole thing up. However, even that appears to be a perilous path. How do you truly rebuild with all of the bad contracts on the books? How confident are we that a future core of Colin White, Logan Brown and Thomas Chabot will be an improvement on the group that’s here today? And that’s before we confront the reality that the return on super star trades almost always leaves to be desired. It just won’t end well.

The sad part about all of this is that the outline of a good team is very much there. A lot of teams would kill for a top three of Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone and Matt Duchene. Trading Karlsson won’t fix any of the team’s problems, it will only make them worse.

Guy, Pierre, and Eugene: Don’t even think about doing it.