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Season of the Sentury: Erik Karlsson

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An almanac of free agency and trade rumours for the Sens’ captain.

2018 NHL All-Star - Portraits Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Erik Karlsson: team captain, two-time Norris Trophy winner, fan favourite, and upcoming free agent. The 28-year-old defenceman is the greatest player to ever put on a Senators jersey, yet his future remains in limbo.

That is why today we’re rolling out our new three-part ‘series’, titled Season of the Sentury.

The 2018-19 NHL season opens in less than a month, and for the Ottawa Senators, this could be the most pivotal time in franchise history. The organization’s three best players of Karlsson, Mark Stone and Matt Duchene are all entering a contract year, and with unrest in the front office, the trio head into the season with the possibility of it being their last in Ottawa.

The purpose of these articles is to provide you with coverage on any new developments, whether it be news or rumours, in a single place. With information on the subject usually coming out in small pieces, this platform will be used by the Silver Seven staff to give you quick hits on any news as it comes out. Not everything is worth writing a full article about, so we hope this will be your go-to place for the latest updates.

No need to worry about bookmarking this page either, as it will be moved to the top of the home page after each update, with each one also being time-stamped.

This specific area will be dedicated to Erik Karlsson — we also have Season of the Sentury posts for Mark Stone and Matt Duchene.

Latest Updates

September 13th — More Smoke

The Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks appear to be making a big push to land Karlsson as soon as today. The first bit of speculation came from San Jose reporter Dieter Kurtenbach.

Then the insiders stepped in, with Pierre LeBrun, Darren Dreger and Elliott Friedman all throwing their hat in the ring.

Wherever he may end up, the amount of smoke has reached a point where I’d be surprised if there isn’t closure today. Karlsson will speak to the media shortly at the CTC, and we’ll be sure to update this post with quotes.

— Colin

September 13th — Karlsson arrives at CTC

He’s here! Won’t know what the hold-up was until he speaks

— Ross

September 13th — Karlsson still not at media day

Still no Karlsson at media day by noon, and we’re not quite sure why

— Ross

September 13th — Bob McKenzie’s update

Trade talk is definitely still happening, though as the inimitable Bobby Mac says, trades have fallen apart at the last second several times over the summer. Western Conference team would basically only eliminate the Lightning as a team that’s been rumoured in the past.

-Ross

September 12th — Dorion Speaks

Pierre Dorion, Nicolas Ruszkowski, Eugene Melnyk and members of the media gathered today in an boardroom meeting, where the Sens staff gave answered questions pertaining to the team’s long-term plan. Many of the quotes were released on video, where Ruszkowski went over the revamped commitment to the fanbase, and Dorion covered the outlook for hockey operations. Dorion begins with a substantial quote on Karlsson:

“Whether Erik Karlsson is part of it or not part of it we know we’re in a rebuild. Every day, every player on this roster is evaluated, including Erik Karlsson, including the other 22 guys on this roster.

“A lot of my counterparts know that we’re in a rebuild. It’s been discussed thoroughly. Obviously, if they know we’re in a rebuild, they’re going to inquire about a lot of our players, including a generational player. It’s our duty to always listen, and to make sure in this rebuild [...] that we’re building towards having a Stanley Cup contending team year after year.”

As expected, Dorion continues to play the listening card, despie numerous sources having indicated that things have been much closer to happening, especially around the trade deadline. The difference is that the team is now openly selling this season as a rebuild, and are open to the idea to trading the franchise’s best player. The fact that other GMs are aware doesn’t bode well for leveraging a return.

— Colin

September 12th — TSN Update

With training camp in view for the Ottawa Senators, Erik Karlsson trade talks are starting to heat up again according to Darren Dreger. He was just interviewed on TSN1200 saying he has a “sense” that a Karlsson trade will happen within a day or two while also saying he is purely reporting on “feeling”. It should be noted that nothing that Dreger said in the interview proves he has heard something concrete as he’s also questioning the viability of Karlsson in Tampa Bay beyond this season in terms of salary and continues to insist the Vegas Golden Knights are a “likely” destination although he has no “deep sources” to give him more insight on that situation. I want to not worry about Dreger and hope it’s just click bait but with Melnyk’s recent “interview” and the Sens complete lack of acknowledgement for Karlsson’s charity along with Dreger specifically saying the sense is coming from ownership down, it makes sense that they would trade him and clear this “distraction” before the season starts.

— N_Dew

September 12th — Vegas’ Stance

Both Darren Dreger and Elliotte Friedman recently spoke on Karlsson, giving a little more detail into what a return might look like. From Dreger:

“I know one of the teams involved made a pretty substantial offer, I would say several weeks or so ago, and I’m told that there were six elements to it. So you’re talking about at least a couple of roster players, at least a couple of prospects, and at least a couple of draft picks. Now, some of that is conditional on whether Erik Karlsson would sign with that team.”

The team is not named, although based on the timing, one’s best guess would be the Dallas Stars. Go crazy with who you think the names may be, although if the return is spread into six pieces, chances are none of them would be an elite piece like Miro Heiskanen or John Klingberg.

Vegas is also a team to watch for, especially in light of top defenceman Nate Schmidt being suspended 20 games for a controversial drug offense. Here’s what Friedman had to say:

“I think we have to be careful because I think there have been some times where it looked like it was close and it obviously didn’t happen. There were a lot of people who thought that Karlsson was going to Vegas at the deadline and it didn’t happen. Ottawa wanted Cody Glass and Vegas didn’t want to do that.

“I think the Ottawa Senators have made it very clear they’re willing to make this trade, but not unless they get what they want to get. And until that happens, I think Ottawa is going to sit there and say, ‘We’re going to hold onto the player because we have to get what we want here.’”

Now that the Golden Knights have expended some of their future assets to acquire Max Pacioretty from Montreal, one has to wonder if they draw the line somewhere. They still have plenty of cap space, as well as Cody Glass. They’re clearly in win-now mode after making their run to the Stanley Cup final.

— Colin

September 12th — How Did We Get Here?

Karlsson’s entering the last year of his seven-year, $45.5M dollar contract that he signed back in 2012. For a player of his caliber, paying him an average of $6.5M per year has been of excellent value, which gives him good reason to try and maximize his next next contract as much as possible. This quote from Karlsson in December is where the rumours began:

“When I go to market, I’m going to get what I’m worth, and it’s going to be no less, no matter where I’m going.”

This came after he had reportedly spoken with Drew Doughty, who was scheduled to become a free agent at the same time as Karlsson until he signed an eight-year, $88M extension with the Los Angeles Kings. With the Sens in the middle of a disastrous season, and team owner Eugene Melnyk struggling financially, fans were left to wonder if the captain would even want to re-sign. And how can we forget Pierre Dorion’s comment that “even Wayne Gretzky” was traded. Karlsson and Dorion both later backpedaled from their statements, although it wasn’t enough to fully clear the unrest it had create.

Then came the trade rumours, which gained maximum intensity around the trade deadline. The two teams that were rumoured to be in hot pursuit were the Tampa Bay Lightning (a Stanley Cup contender and Karlsson’s preferred destination) and the Vegas Golden Knights (a team with plenty of cap space to also take Bobby Ryan’s contract). Bob McKenzie reported on the talks, implying roughly a 50% chance of a trade happening by the deadline. Talks reportedly went until the very last minute, but nothing materialized. Vegas instead pulled the trigger to acquire Tomas Tatar from Detroit, and Tampa Bay gained Ryan McDonagh from the Rangers.

That left Karlsson on the Sens for the remainder of the season, leading to him retrieving the puck out of the net in the final game of the season. July 1st rolled around, the first day that he’d be eligible to sign an extension. Pierre Dorion’s message at his press conference was clear and to the point: an offer has been made. No other answers were given, although it was later revealed that said offer stood at $10M per year, although some rumblings have indicated that it’s been incrementally bumped up closer to $11M. There’s also the issue of signing bonuses, which were reportedly absent in comparison to other recent mega-deals (John Tavares, Doughty, etc.).

Obviously we know that Karlsson has yet to accept an extension. On July 2nd, the day after the offer was made, it was reported that the Sens had given permission to other clubs to negotiate a contract extension with him, should he be traded. It’s worth noting that Karlsson has some control, with a ten team no-trade clause. The Dallas Stars for a while seemed to be pushing hard for closure, although nothing materialized. Besides a false trade scare later and a somewhat-resolved off-ice controversy later, the rest of the summer has been pretty quiet. And Erik Karlsson looks poised to start the 2018-19 season back in the capital.

The same three teams are likely still in the mix — Vegas, Tampa and Dallas. The Colorado Avalanche have also garnered some speculation due to them possessing the Sens’ 2019 first round pick, although it appears to be stationed as just rumours. The most recent team to be named is Vancouver, which seems odd given their current circumstance. There was also a weird thing about him not willing to sign long-term with a Canadian team, although that was quickly shot down.

The amount of smoke is enough to challenge a wildfire, yet Karlsson is still in Ottawa, even continuing with his philanthropic activities. Something is going to happen eventually, whether it be walking via free agency, a trade, or (fingers crossed) a long-term extension. Check back to this page for the latest updates.