Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
Could Erik Karlsson be traded?
The latest buzz from around the NHL suggests it is at least possible leading up to the league deadline, which would result in arguably the biggest-ever midseason deal. Karlsson is not the only name floating around, as teams are discussing other targets who could help for a Stanley Cup push.
Who could be on the move before 3 p.m. ET Monday?
Karlsson in Talks
Less than a year ago, it would have been unthinkable for the Ottawa Senators to trade Karlsson. The Ottawa captain led them to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, which they lost in double-overtime. Yet, here we are.
Ottawa sits second from the bottom in the Eastern Conference, with just 52 points in 59 games. The team has crashed and burned this season, and major changes seem imminent.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie released a full report Wednesday indicating the Senators are listening to other clubs’ proposals for Karlsson and that the possibility exists, even if it less than likely, that the star defenseman could be moved by the trade deadline.
McKenzie delved into detail about Ottawa’s thinking, saying there have been no formal offers, as the Senators have just discussed the parameters of what they are looking for in return. He reported that could include a combination of draft picks and players and that the price could drop if a team is willing to take Bobby Ryan as well.
Since coming over to Ottawa in 2013, Ryan has not been able to replicate the elite scoring touch he showed with the Anaheim Ducks. He has topped 50 points just twice, and injuries have derailed much of his time in Canada’s capital city.
In his past 101 games, Ryan has mustered a mere 45 points, which makes his cap hit of $7.25 million over the next four seasons a major hindrance both for the Senators and any team looking to lessen the cost of bringing in Karlsson.
McKenzie noted the Tampa Bay Lightning are a Karlsson contender. There seems to be some backing on this sentiment considering TSN’s Travis Yost also reported the Lightning are looking to make a play:
Travis Yost @travisyost
Tampa Bay continues to aggressively pursue an Erik Karlsson trade. Still have interest in other defensive options across the league. Will upgrade somewhere.
From a financial standpoint, Tampa Bay only has just over $2 million in cap space and big extensions for Yanni Gourde, Vladislav Namestnikov and Brayden Point needed over the next two years. This makes the Ryan route practically impossible, but the Lightning do have an abundance of top-end young talent and prospects who could help the team land Karlsson, including Anthony Cirelli, Callan Foote, Mitchell Stephens, Conor Timmins and Taylor Raddysh.
Would parting with most of those prospects and an established roster player be worth it for Karlsson, who has one year left on his deal? It would make the Lightning the undisputed favorite to hoist the Stanley Cup, but it would be a massive blow to the team’s loaded prospect pool. Perhaps Tampa Bay waits it out to lower the price, as one rival general manager described to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun:
Pierre LeBrun @PierreVLeBrun
One Western Conference GM suggested to me today that Ottawa could also be laying down the framework for a June Karlsson trade by beginning the process now in terms of laying out the principles/asks…. (1)
Either way, this is sure to become the talk of the NHL ahead of Monday’s deadline. Adding arguably the best defenseman in hockey to a team that already includes Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos would be among the best the league has seen in recent memory.
With all of the moving parts being discussed in this trade, it seems unlikely it will go down at the deadline, but desperation could take over for one side. Hopefully, that leads to unprecedented fireworks.
Vanek Moving Again?
After being one of the NHL’s most lethal offensive threats during his prime years with the Buffalo Sabres, Thomas Vanek has become something of a journeyman.
Vanek has been traded three times and played for six teams since leaving Buffalo during the 2013-14 season, and it seems the 34-year-old could end up with a seventh club. Sportsnet 650’s Rick Dhaliwal reported there have been talks:
Rick Dhaliwal @DhaliwalSports
Source on Vanek, “Teams kicking tires on Vanek, if right deal #Canucks will move him but it’s not definite that he will be moved, could be 50-50.”
Vanek is playing on what can be considered the minimum rate for a player of his pedigree, a one-year, $2 million contract. This makes him movable as a rental player for a contender wanting depth scoring, and he has proved he can provide that.
The Austrian has racked up 737 points in 945 career games, and he has produced a solid 40 points in 60 games for the Vancouver Canucks this season. He most definitely has the skill to contribute on a second unit for a playoff team, but he has not played in the postseason since sputtering with four points over 10 contests with the Minnesota Wild in 2015.
Still, Vanek is worth a flier if a top team either misses out on a higher target or does not want to spend huge at the deadline. If he is moved, expect Vanek to fetch at least a fourth-round pick or mid-level prospect by Monday afternoon.
Statistics are courtesy of hockeyDB.com. Contract information is courtesy of CapFriendly.