Return of the King???
Earlier this week, Sharks GM Mike Grier told a few insiders that he would be open to trading Erik Karlsson. This came only a few days after Ian Mendes said on The Athletic Hockey Show that he thinks a return to Ottawa could happen for Erik Karlsson if Daniel Alfredsson were to become involved in the front office. It’s also hard to read Karlsson’s recent Player’s Tribune piece and not think a return is possible.
It’s obviously a pretty ridiculous idea at this point, but it’s still fun to speculate, so, let’s do it.
Karlsson carries an $11M cap hit for the next four seasons after this one. He is also injury-prone and hasn’t been able to maintain the level of excellence we saw from him in Ottawa - he’s had a few stretches where he’s looked like his old self (see: right now), but has also been Bad at times. No good team can afford him at his full cap hit, but he’s still good enough that the Sharks wouldn’t be able to properly tank with him on the roster, if that’s the direction they want to take.
Even at 50% retained, the Sens can’t fit him on the roster this year or next without moving out a lot of money - they’re already in a tight spot when it comes to retaining some of their pending free agents. The contract is only going to look worse with time, but the cap maybe going up in 2024 and the possibility of just putting him on LTIR if he gets hurt again makes it a little bit more palatable.
Keep in mind that Karlsson is playing at a Norris trophy level right now. He would be a massive upgrade on the Sens’ blueline, and absolutely worth $5.75M.
For all these reasons, plus the fact that he has a no movement clause, I’m struggling to figure out what Karlsson’s trade value is right now. How much does his contract and injury history bring his value down? How much would the Sens have to give up just to get San Jose to retain part of that contract?
From a practical standpoint, bringing back Karlsson might not be the best idea, but from a vibes-based standpoint, this would be a great full circle moment. Bring him home.
Redden to the Ring of Honour
The Sens’ 30th anniversary season is turning into a season of honouring former Sens legends, with Alfie going into the Hockey Hall of Fame earlier this week, Chris Neil getting his number retired in the new year, and now Wade Redden being inducted into the Sens’ Ring of Honour.
It’s great to see the Sens finally using the Ring of Honour that up until this point was occupied solely by Bryan Murray. Redden is certainly a deserving candidate; Chara stuff aside, he was one of the best defensemen of the 2000s Sens, and an important leader on the team. I’m glad he’s back with the organization, and I hope we see a few more player added to the Ring of Honour over the next few years.
The Calder Race
Are we officially on Calder watch now?
16 games in, both Shane Pinto and Jake Sanderson have been keeping pace with the league’s top rookies. Pinto leads all rookies in goals by a very wide margin with 8, and both players are tied for second in points among rookies, with 9 apiece. It’ll be a few months before we really see a few players pull away from the pack, but at the moment each Sens player has an interesting case for different reasons.
Pinto is the more traditional Calder candidate, as a high-scoring forward. Going into this season, the big knock against him was that he was supposed to be playing in a bottom-six role. Josh Norris’s injury could have changed that for him, but Pinto hasn’t really grabbed the 2C spot in Norris’s absence, and indeed has cooled down a bit since his red-hot start to the season.
Sanderson has a more interesting case. He’s been putting up points, but it’s his defensive game that’s really stood out. Defensemen don’t win the Calder very often, but last year’s winner could be a good comparison for Sanderson. Moritz Seider won on the basis of strong two-way play and, crucially, the fact that he stepped into the #1 defenseman role on a defensively weak team. With Chabot expected to return before too long, Sanderson will have to be really impressive on the second pairing in order to get a real shot at the award.
Who knows if we’re still having this conversation in a few months, but it’s nice to have guys in the running for awards. It’s been too long.
Is this finally the real Brady Tkachuk?
It’s been fun to watch Brady Tkachuk’s development because he’s one of the few players in the NHL with a really obvious comparable you can measure him against. Brady and Matthew Tkachuk are different players, and their careers haven’t followed exactly the same trajectory, but it feels like for the last few years we’ve been waiting for Brady to turn into the complete player his brother is.
With 21 points in 16 games, Brady Tkachuk is easily keeping pace with his brother and currently 11th in the entire league in points. He’s an offensive force on the ice these days. His shot is noticeably better, and he’s making much smarter plays in front of the net.
Toward the end of last season, I was ready to pencil in Tim Stützle as the team points leader for years to come, but maybe I was underestimating Tkachuk’s potential. He’s pretty good.
I feel like I need to take a moment to acknowledge how cool it is that we’re even talking about Erik Karlsson possibly returning to Ottawa, or Wade Redden working with the organization and getting inducted into the Ring of Honour, or the team openly celebrating Daniel Alfredsson’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
One of my favourite moments from the last week was seeing the whole Sens team on the benches to watch Alfredsson’s speech and cheer him on. It finally feels like this team has history, and is proud of that history. None of the players on that bench have played with Alfie before, but they know who he is and the impact he’s had on the city. It’s just great to finally feel like the team is connected to its history and on good terms with former players. I’m not sure we’ve ever really had that.