Silver Nuggets: Trading for Erik Karlsson's defense partner

With news last week that Marc Methot had been returned to the injury reserve, sirens in the Sens-specific region of my brain started to go off. What about the defense? It's clear that no one - management, the coaching staff, or Methot himself - knew that the hard-nosed blueliner would be out for so long. It's terrible timing, as Methot is about to enter unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career and having a nagging back injury certainly makes teams more hesitant to give term. It's also terrible timing for the Ottawa Senators, who possibly need to look externally to find a stable partner for Erik Karlsson. It's worth repeating again that Karlsson has had to play with a number of 5/6 defenseman this season, which is something that Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, PK Subban, etc. do not have to go through.

Nichols had a piece on a Garrioch report that the Senators had entered the trade rumours as actively looking for a defense partner for the young Swede. Having already missed out on a young, cost-controlled defenseman like Brenden Dillon, who went to San Jose from Dallas, the Senators have started to look at former Buffalo Sabre and current Canes player Andrej Sekera as a possible fit. It'd be similar to the acquisition of Ales Hemsky to play on Spezza's wing at the end of the year, as Sekera is a UFA at the end of the year, except that Carolina's asking price for the Slovak is a first round pick and a top young prospect. With the need for defense at the deadline always high, will that price drop a ton?

I think the case FOR Sekera can be made quite nicely by the graph below via the amazing War On Ice.

This lets us see Sekera's underlying numbers throughout his career, with the season's he's been active in the league on the X-axis. The quality of competition that he faces is on the Y-axis, using an ice-time metric, and as we can see, Sekera has generally faced high quality competition (other players who usually play a lot of minutes) throughout his career, and especially in the last couple of seasons. Sekera averages 22+ minutes a night and is doing that again with Carolina this season, and when he is on the ice, his team often out-possesses their opponents, which is shown by the blue bubbles (darker is better).

I wholeheartedly agree with Nichols' conclusion below:

Would he look good playing beside Erik Karlsson?


Would it make sense for a mediocre team to mortgage some combination of young players, prospects, draft picks to acquire a rental – even if the need was significant?

Absolutely not.

Sekera’s good, but the opportunity cost to acquire him could probably be better served spent on acquiring a cost player (or players) who would be under team control for the foreseeable future.

Even the most optimistic of fans would admit that acquiring Sekera would come with a considerable amount of risk. Although Craig Anderson can be cited as an example of an unrestricted free agent who was brought in and elected an extension rather than test free agency, Ales Hemsky serves as an example of a player who left at the conclusion of the season.

Moreover, the Hemsky example serves as a reminder the Senators are already operating with a slim margin for error. One player alone isn’t necessarily going to make the difference and help the Senators reach the postseason, especially if Methot continues to sit on the sidelines for an extended period of time. Even if they did, the organization should be weighing the cost of acquiring a rental against what expectations there are for this team to go an extended run.

If the Senators can lock up Sekera and give Erik Karlsson a stable, GOOD partner for the next couple of seasons, I'd absolutely consider it, especially if Carolina moves off the need for a 2015 first round pick. Manny, from Senstats, also has a more convincing argument for targeting him which I would recommend that you read. If they can't lock him up, I'd rather the team put their assets (even if it costs more) towards a younger defenseman. Not everyone will agree with me on Sekera though, so let's discuss in the comments below who's your preferred partner for Erik Karlsson!


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