It remains to be seen if the Ottawa Senators organization will ever recover from the fallout of the Erik Karlsson trade that left the fan base in one of the worst states imaginable; divided. That's to be expected when you trade the most talented Senator ever, and in the eyes of many, the greatest Senator ever. While we still cannot determine exactly who caused the trade and situation leading up to it, what we can do is look at the assets we got in exchange for Karlsson, and what they can potentially become, as a part of the Sens' future. Here is a refresher of the trade:
To SJS: D Erik Karlsson, LW Francis Perron
To OTT: C Chris Tierney, D Dylan DeMelo, C Josh Norris, LW Rudolfs Balcers, 2019 1st Round Pick (2020 if SJS makes playoffs this year), 2019 2nd Round Pick (Highest of SJS's 3 picks), Conditional 2021 2nd Round Pick (Sens get pick if SJS extends Karlsson, becomes 2021 1st if SJS makes SCF this year), Conditional 1st Round Pick if Karlsson is traded to Eastern Conference team this season.
For now, we're going to ignore the conditional picks and focus on the six guaranteed assets of the trade. Chris Tierney, thanks to a hot start to the season, has 22 points (4 goals) in 35 games, on pace for 51 at the end of the season, good numbers for a second-line centre, a position that Tierney has shared with Colin White throughout the season. Aside from points, Tierney has a talent for killing penalties, contributing to the Sens' recently improved PK; before the Nashviile game they had killed 25 of their last 27 penalties, and one of the two PPG they allowed was on a 5-on-3. Dylan DeMelo is another nice surprise, he has had success playing with both Thomas Chabot and Max Lajoie, and has been alright offensively, contributing 8 points in 30 games this season. DeMelo's defensive game has been impressive this year, but it remains to be seen if he can be a viable long term Top-4 option; maybe he only looks great because he's surrounded by defenders that suffer from inconsistency (Ceci, Borowiecki, Harpur), or a lack of experience (Lajoie, Jaros), but he's been Ottawa's 2nd best defenceman this season and is contributing in a positive way, and that does count for something.
Looking at the prospects, Rudolfs Balcers has put up 18 points in 29 games, not terrible numbers but still disappointing especially since we gave up Perron who has 23 in 23. Balcers is still a year younger though, and still has enough talent to be a 2nd line NHLer if he develops. Josh Norris is looking like the quality player in this deal, however; with 19 points in 17 games, he has done very well for a sophomore at Michigan State, and with GM Pierre Dorion looking to sign him at the end of the year, I'm hoping he makes the jump to professional hockey soon, and develop into a 2C for the big club in a few years. He's also one of Brady Tkachuk's best friends, so he's a potential line mate who can find chemistry very quickly.
When you factor in the draft picks Ottawa acquired in the EK deal, it looks even more promising. The 2nd rounder is a hit-or-miss piece that could potentially yield another Alex Formenton, or just another Gabriel Gagne, you really can't predict that at this point. However, the 1st rounder has the potential to be a really good player for Ottawa, because of what's happening with the Sharks right now. Thy are currently 19-11-5, good for 2nd in the Pacific division. What's so great about this, you ask? Well, San Jose is safely in a playoff spot right now, so it's very likely that the Sens obtain their 2020 1st round pick, and that's a good thing. When I look at the Pacific Division, I see a lot of teams on the rise (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Vegas), and San Jose isn't one of them. Erik Karlsson may become a free agent and sign elsewhere, but even if the Sharks do sign him (which gives Ottawa another pick), he is not going to get any faster or more talented. Meanwhile, the Sharks other two top defenders, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, are 33 and 31 respectively, and are two players that could regress quite a bit next season; we're already seeing this with Vlasic, who has only 7 points in 35 games this season with the Sharks, with a -13 rating to boot. Meanwhile, on the offensive side, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, if they're still on the team next year, will be a year older, and aside from Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier, no Sharks forwards are poised for a breakout season. Evander Kane is still Evander Kane, and we're all too familiar with what a bad dressing room can do to a team. Speaking of him, the two EK trades have left left the Sharks with limited pieces to improve their depth via trade, and with an inconsistent Martin Jones in net, we're looking at a potential beginning of a decline; their 2020 1st rounder has the potential to be a Top-10 pick.
Right now, the Erik Karlsson trade is looking to be in favour of the Ottawa Senators. The Sharks are doing well, but nowhere near what most predicted. Despite Karlsson's improvement, his numbers still aren't incredible, and no amount of xGF will get him 11 million. If SJS manages to win the Stanley Cup, that will be a huge win for them, but even so, Ottawa can still greatly benefit from the trade. They can add to their draft picks by flipping Chris Tierney, who is a valuable player that can fetch a pick at the draft in the 20th-31st overall range, and there are other players Ottawa can flip for assets as well, that can be replaced by Formenton, and other players on ELCs. Things are going to be tough for a while, but that's the status quo for a rebuilding team, and as we draft more and more players, and as our young players continue to improve, we could very well see the Ottawa Senators return to the team of the early 2000's with consistent regular season success, and with Brady Tkachuk and hopefully Mark Stone leading the way, hopefully some consistent playoff success as well.