Was that a bit too cheerful? Sorry.
It's not necessarily an occasion worth celebrating, but re-visiting the biggest and most controversial trade in franchise history on its one-year anniversary will undoubtably
make sure there's nobody else who can be eligible for 2019 FanPost of the Year spark a discussion about whether or not the Senators' rebuild is headed in the right direction.
For those of you that have read my original Erik Karlsson trade post, you can look at this piece as a continuation of that one. I was unsure how it would fare; I knew there would be a lot of you disagreeing with me, but I had faith that I would not get flamed by an angry mob of Erik Karlsson supporters. Needless to say, you guys were phenomenal; to every one of you who commented or even simply took the time to read, I thank you.
There were a lot of valid counter-arguments, particularly that we did not end up receiving a top-notch prospect in the tier of say, Erik Brannstrom. However, with the sheer volume of decent pieces we received, there's a great opportunity to draft and develop a large amount of players that could be key contributors to the team's long-term success down the road. So while I'm not disagreeing with you guys, I think that the approach that underrated NHL GM and PR nightmare Pierre Dorion has taken to the trade has a chance to help the team even more.
Before we take a look at what rewards we've reaped from the trade so far, I think we should first look at what's going on with Erik Karlsson and the San Jose Sharks. Despite some luck in the playoffs that would make our 2017 Ottawa Senators green with envy, the Sharks were unable to end their legacy of failure, losing to the eventual champions; the St. Louis Blues; in six games. Contrary to what 74% of us predicted, Sharks GM Doug Wilson doubled down on his initial gamble, signing Erik Karlsson to an eight-year contract extension with an AAV of $11.5 million per season...that's um...expensive. Don't get me wrong, if it were July 1st, 2017 and Karlsson was 100% healthy, I wouldn't think twice about offering him that deal, but after these past two seasons, I'd definitely have some reservations about offering him that term and money. I guess Erik can thank Drew Doughty (the most overpaid player in hockey) for his payday, he's definitely set up for life with that deal.
Nobody knows how Karlsson will fare over the duration of his new deal. Sure, the last two seasons have been pretty rough from a health perspective, but any Sens fan in 2013 knows that this is a player whose recuperative prowess should not be underestimated. So I'm going to make this simple for all of you and assume that Erik Karlsson begins training camp 100% healthy and finishes Top 5 in Norris voting in each of the next five seasons. How likely is that to happen? I don't know, but it's hard to envision a brighter future than the one I just described.
The point is, any semblance of a return to form that we'll see from Karlsson over the next few seasons will be somewhat offset by a number of other factors. Firstly, the loss of Justin Braun, Gustav Nyquist, and Joonas Donskoi will hurt the team at least slightly. On top of these players leaving, others will be needing new deals soon, particularly Kevin Labanc, who will undoubtably be commanding a much higher salary in 20-21 than the 1M he is slated to earn this season. It's going to become harder to manage the roster, even with the cap increasing each year. Second, the duo of Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic will continue to age; neither will be playing at an elite level three years from now.
The biggest reason the Sharks could see a decline this upcoming season is the loss of Joe Pavelski. The 35-year old has not only produced like a top-line forward for the better part of his career, but he's cemented himself as a fan favourite in San Jose; one could even say he was the heart and soul of their team. And now he's gone to the Dallas Stars, for one reason and one reason alone: Erik Karlsson. The reality was that with the Sharks' cap situation, they couldn't bring back both Karlsson and Pavelski for the upcoming season, so GM Doug Wilson chose to part with Pavelski; this is likely due to the fact that acquiring Karlsson, losing in the playoffs, and letting him walk for nothing would probably have been his swan song with the Sharks. However, that's clearly being overly cautious, because he was able to acquire the best defenceman on the planet, and in return give up a bag of pucks...or at least that's what Sens Twitter wants you to believe.
You see, anyone who's actually been paying attention to the team this past year knows that these players who were previously unheard of, have all had some degree of success in their first year in the organization; here's a rundown of the four players we received along with what they accomplished in 2018-19:
C Chris Tierney (The Sharks' 4C)
- 81 GP, 9 G, 39 A
- Very good playmaking abilities
D Dylan DeMelo (Sharks' 6th D)
- 77 GP, 4 G, 18 A, -1
- Thomas Chabot's regular partner on defence
C Josh Norris (Bottom-6 forward prospect, "character guy", Brady's best friend)
- 17 GP, 10 G, 9 A (NCAA)
LW/RW Rudolfs Balcers (Middle-6 forward prospect)
- 36 GP, 5 G, 9 A (NHL)
- 43 GP, 17 G, 14 A (AHL)
- 9 points in 7 games for Latvia at the recent World Championships
It's safe to say that the stock of all four of the above players has risen considerably since the beginning of the 2018-19 season. In particular, Dylan DeMelo has gone from being a 3rd pairing defender on the Sharks to a Top-4 defender on the Senators, and Josh Norris' impressive sophomore year with Michigan has earned himself more generous projections as a top-six centre in the NHL.
In terms of the rest of the trade, Ottawa has also acquired a 2021 2nd round pick from the Sharks, as the Sharks re-signed Karlsson before July 1st. Additionally, the 2019 2nd rounder the Sens received has materialized into Mads Sogaard, a massive 6'7 goaltender that Dorion coveted enough to move up and select 37th overall. Only time will tell if he will pan out, but with the abundance of goaltenders in our prospect pool, there's not too much to worry about, a #1 will surely emerge from the group. The piece that everybody will watching this season is that sweet, sweet 1st rounder, and it all depends on how the Sharks will fare this season. Despite the loss of their captain and the long-term struggles in store for them, the Sharks will ice a formidable squad this season. It won't be nearly as dominant on the ice as last season's but it's going to take some serious misfortune for them to finish below the likes of Los Angeles, Anaheim and Edmonton (McDavid could always carry that team but I don't think it's likely, nobody on Earth has that kind of muscle). I would expect the Sharks' pick to end up in the same range as the pick we received from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the much better of the two Matt Duchene trades, which will hopefully score us another top prospect.
Overall, when it comes to evaluating Dorion's work in this trade, we really have to eliminate any emotional attachment to Karlsson, any anger from him being gone should be directed at owner Eugene Melnyk. As for the trade itself, the Sharks can win this trade only one way: winning a Stanley Cup. If that doesn't happen in the next few years, the trade and subsequent extension will end up being an apocalyptic nightmare for the Sharks. Either way, it's still up in the air how this trade will turn out for the Senators, it definitely looks promising so far, but we need to see what Balcers, Norris, and future prospects can do in the NHL before declaring this trade a win for Dorion.
Let me know what you think of the trade at this point, and also what you think of the team's rebuild so far. Thanks for rea-wait, HOLD IT! I almost forgot that there was one other player in the trade that I haven't mentioned yet. Remember Francis Perron? The 2014 draft pick who put up phenomenal numbers in the QMJHL, but couldn't quite translate his game to the AHL as well as we hoped? How worried we were, as many of us were sure that he would find his game with the San Jose Barracuda without an incompetent coach holding him back? Well he's been traded again, to the Vancouver Canucks. For who, you ask? Let's just say, it's a small world.