Brian Blanco/Associated Press

Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson added fuel to trade rumors Thursday when he followed Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos on Twitter and Instagram.

SportsDay Stars tweeted a photo of Karlsson’s recent Twitter follows, with Stamkos on center stage:

Sean Leahy of ProHockeyTalk then did the same for Karlsson’s Instagram account:

With Karlsson in the final year of his contract, rumors and speculation regarding a trade have run rampant since last season.

Multiple teams have reportedly contacted the Sens about acquiring the two-time Norris Trophy winner.

According to Joe Smith of The Athletic, the Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights have inquired about Karlsson.

Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers have talked with the Senators about their captain as well.

Meanwhile, The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro reported the Dallas Stars are the front-runners to land Karlsson.

It is unclear whether Karlsson’s following Stamkos means anything, but it will undoubtedly lead to more speculation that a move to Florida could be in his future.

The Bolts were the top team in the Eastern Conference last season with 113 points, and they reached the Eastern Conference Final before falling to the Caps.

One of Tampa Bay’s few weaknesses last season was offense from the blue line. Aside from 2018 Norris winner Victor Hedman (63 points) and Mikhail Sergachev (40 points), no Lightning defenseman had more than 18 points.

Karlsson has had more than 60 points in five straight seasons, and trading for him would further cement Tampa Bay as one of the NHL’s most dangerous teams.

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