Bobby Ryan

Karlsson's intriguing, but Bruins should just say no

AP Photo

Karlsson's intriguing, but Bruins should just say no

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. 

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. 



Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open


Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering if it shouldn’t be more of an issue that potential Red Sox manager Alex Cora was good buddies with Dustin Pedroia when the two played together in Boston.

*Jaromir Jagr suffers a lower-body injury and then goes on Hockey Night in Canada’s “After Hours” program to show once again how wonderful it is to be “The Jagr.”

*The Ottawa Senators get Erik Karlsson back this week, but now they’ve lost power forward Bobby Ryan for a month with a broken finger.

*The Montreal Canadiens are getting exposed for the very flawed team that they are during a brutal start to the 2017-18 season.

*Keep an eye out on the Los Angeles Kings now that they’ve suffered an injury with Jeff Carter and do appear to be in the running for the playoffs this season.

*New Jersey Devils fans help a singer belt out the national anthem after there might have been a case of forgetting the words.

*Doug Gilmour might not have always enjoyed the prying eyes while playing in Toronto, a case that gives you an idea what it’s like to be a pro hockey player in a market like Toronto where everybody knows your name.

*For something completely different: There’s no doubting that Aaron Judge has brought life and energy back to the Yankees and that’s something that’s very good for baseball.


Haggerty: Senators' postseason run makes it easier to swallow Bruins' loss

Haggerty: Senators' postseason run makes it easier to swallow Bruins' loss

So maybe, just maybe, we should feel a little better about the Bruins showing in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Bruins bowed out in six games in the first round to the Ottawa Senators as we all remember and they even had the built-in excuse that they were missing three of their top-four defensemen for pretty much the balance of the series once Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and Brandon Carlo went out with an assortment of injuries.

That doesn’t even count the surgeries that Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask succumbed to after the season and the fact that David Krejci was a banged-up ghost in the series as well.

But the Bruins played Ottawa tough and might have even been able to pull off the upset if they’d been able to hold onto a two-goal lead in the third period of Game 2. Since that point, the Bruins hired Bruce Cassidy on as the full-time head coach after an 18-8-1 finish to the regular season and the players have scattered to the four corners of the hockey world to lick their wounds until training camp.

Or to think about what this building block of a season means to them moving forward.

“I think we’re kind of headed down the track that they want us to be going down. I think we’re headed down the path that they want us to be going. The management team put together a plan and I think that’s kind of where we’re at right now. It’s great to have, like I said before, the young kids coming in, and that culture seems to be in the room again,” said Brad Marchand at Bruins' break-up day. “The guys really got along well, we had a really great group this year that got along great off the ice. I think that’s why towards the end we really came together.

"When you have a group that’s that close and really gets along, then it’s a lot easier to come together at hard times and overcome them. That’s what I thought we did. We definitely took some steps in the right direction. Bringing the young guys in and getting back in the playoffs, getting that hunger again that maybe we might have missed having the last couple of years. It’s great, too, for the young guys to see what the playoffs are like and get that taste of wanting to win, the crowd wanting to win, the city wanting to win, and what it can take to win or lose a series. We went through a lot of good things, showed a lot of character this year, it’s great for the guys to see that, believe that, and bring that into next year.”

Ottawa has gone on to take out the New York Rangers in the second round in a series where Rangers' Derek Stepan and Henrik Lundqvist were beefing with each other as things slipped away, and now they’re up 2-1 on the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins after humiliating Pittsburgh 5-1 at the Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday night. 

The Sens' 1-3-1 trap has frustrated high-speed teams in Pittsburgh and New York and both Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson continue to play at extremely high levels as they did against Boston.

Karlsson has 14 points and a dominant plus-13 in 15 playoff games for the Senators while pushing to the top of the Conn Smythe hopefuls. He's averaged a ridiculous 28:29 of ice time per game while showing off his electric offensive skills, playing as close to gritty defense as he can manage and displaying leadership while playing hurt at points in the postseason. The bottom line is that Karlsson is the dominant, all-around superstar a team needs to undergo a two-month run to the Stanley Cup and he’s consistently playing like it in the postseason for the first time in his standout NHL career.

So, perhaps now we should heap even more credit on a Bruins team that gave the Senators everything they could handle in the first round. The Bruins came within an overtime goal of pushing Ottawa to a Game 7 in their own building despite missing so many players from their roster. They also had at least one or two atrocious on-ice calls impact the outcomes of games. The OT loss in Game 3 at TD Garden where Riley Nash’s love tap led to the Ottawa game-winner is the one that sticks out in everybody’s mind, of course.

With the Washington Capitals out in the second round and the Penguins clearly a wounded animal while missing Kris Letang due to injury, the way is paved for the Senators to drag their trapping, oft-boring style all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. 

Some might look at the Bruins and feel like it was a missed opportunity for them to be a surprise team that could have gone on a run this spring if they’d made it past the Senators. They might look at the first round, scratch their heads, exclaim “Damn!” and feel like the Bruins could have done exactly what Ottawa is doing right now.

“A lot is talked about the [Senators] system. It works for them, clearly. I think they’ve got some very good players. They’ve got some physical guys that get to the net, the Bobby Ryan’s of the world, the [Mark] Stones – they’ve got guys that they use to check – [Jean-Gabriel] Pageau, [Mike] Hoffman, he’s more of a scorer but they ask them all to contribute,” said Cassidy moments after the Bruins lost Game 6. “So, they’ve got good players and defensively, [Erik] Karlsson has a very good stick, body, and blocking shots. So, they’ve got good players.

“It sure looks like they have good sticks and they play their system well. Having said that, when we were able to penetrate through there and get behind them, I thought we played our game well. Both teams had their moments; they just had a few more than us.”

The simple truth is that it wasn’t Boston’s time this spring and the Bruins weren’t healthy enough to take out the Senators, who proved to be tougher than advertised. It was a good first step with players like 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy getting their feet wet and 20-year-old David Pastrnak logging some playoff experience that’s going to pay off next season and beyond.

Those six games, including a pretty awesome double-overtime win on the road in Game 5, should be even more encouraging to Bruins fans after watching what Ottawa has done to the Rangers and Penguins, a pair of Metro Division powerhouses. It’s just another piece of mounting evidence that the future is bright for the Black and Gold and things are most definitely on the right track for the next few seasons.