With the Bruins possibly still window shopping for a long term, top-4 defenseman ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline, should they make a push for two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson?
The dysfunctional soap opera continues in Ottawa with the Senators as owner Eugene Melnyk has taken over as club president, and now a CTV Ottawa report indicates that NHL teams “will be pitching” Ottawa this week with trade offers for the 27-year-old, game-changing defenseman. The catch is that any team looking for Karlsson also has to take on the contract of 30-year-old calcifying winger Bobby Ryan, who has a cap killer of a deal with four more years after this one at $7.25 million.
Hearing that several teams will be pitching Sens this week on Erik Karlsson. Taking on Ryan contract expected to be part of the ask.— Terry MarcotteCTV (@TerryMarcotte) February 20, 2018
That condition to a Karlsson trade is likely to knock many potential suitors out of the running, and with good reason.
Ryan has 7 goals and 20 points in 39 games this season, and underachieved last year with 13 goals and 25 points in 62 games before getting his game together in Ottawa’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Karlsson has one more season at $6.5 million before unrestricted free agency, and the conventional wisdom is that trade talks have stirred because the Senators are balking at what’s sure to be a massive contract extension. It’s the same reason they shipped Kyle Turris to Nashville in the Matt Duchene deal when his big contract was coming due with the Senators as well.
But Karlsson is so good at what he does that it might just be worth swallowing hard on the Ryan contract, and hoping that he’s got a few good seasons left in him. Like 2015-16, when he posted 22 goals and 56 points in 81 games.
Karlsson is pace for another 60-point season from the back end, but is also a whopping minus-27 for a dreadful Senators bunch that’s slowly sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic Division. Clearly the numbers will be down from the 18 goals and 73 points Karlsson has averaged over his previous four seasons. Karlsson has also had some foot issues in his last few seasons, but there’s no reason to think he won’t be a dynamic, game-changing force for years to come.
So should the Bruins give this heavy consideration given that they’re in the market for another frontline defenseman and a big, heavy experienced winger, and could get all of it done in one fell swoop? It might be intriguing to think about a right side of the defense in Boston where Karlsson and Charlie McAvoy could be dynamic D-men for the next decade, and if nothing else Ryan showed last spring that he’ll be one of those veterans that can rise to the occasion in the postseason even if he floats through the regular season.
But in the end it’s simply too much money and too many prospects the Bruins would have to give up to secure both players when they could give up much less in both areas to chase after New York’s Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh in a similar combo deal. Chasing after Karlsson also doesn’t address Boston’s biggest need on the back end, which is a left shot top-4 D-man who can partner with McAvoy long term and potentially step in for 40-year-old Zdeno Chara when he eventually moves on.
More realistically, Don Sweeney and the Bruins are still on course for a bigger, experienced veteran rental player on the wing now that they’ve addressed their back end depth with the trade for Rangers D-man Nick Holden.
The Bruins might surprise everybody and beat a team like Tampa Bay to the punch for a blockbuster deal this month, but it doesn’t feel like that’s coming with a B’s team still poised to pass the Lightning for the top spot in the league all by themselves.