It’s silly season right now in the NHL. We’re about 72 hours from the trade deadline. Rumors are swirling. Fans are hoping their team will acquire the players, prospects and draft picks on their wish list.
This season we’re seeing a lot of high profile names being tossed into the trade market. The biggest name on the market is Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Bob McKenzie of TSN stated today that the Senators are engaged in talks to move the star defender.
My sense is that OTT trade talks with more than one team are progressing from conceptual/theoretical to actually talking about some of the specific pieces that could be included were a deal to be done. And, of course, there’s the Bobby Ryan factor.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 23, 2018
While it may be difficult to pull off a deal by Monday it remains a possibility. If it doesn’t happen by Monday, it appears like it’ll go down in the offseason.
First things first. This is crazy. I can’t think of a time recently when one of the top five players in the game has been available for a trade.
Bobby Ryan Factor
The Senators will look for a big haul to recoup the loss of Karlsson. They also appear to be using Karlsson as a way to shed some money and salary cap. Sens General Manager Pierre Dorion is telling teams they prefer Bobby Ryan is included in Karlsson trade discussions.
OK, bit of an Erik Karlsson trade talk update thread, such as it is: OTT’s very strong preference is that a team potentially acquiring EK would also have to take Bobby Ryan, who has four years remaining with a $7.25M cap hit but actual salary of $7.5M...— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 23, 2018
The 30-year-old forward has four years remaining on his contract with a $7.25 million cap hit per season. That is a monster of a contract for them to request another club takes on. It will also result in the return being less than what they would receive trading Karlsson as the only piece to depart from Ottawa.
The Tampa Bay Lightning appear to be the rumored front-runner. If Ryan has to be a part of the deal it likely takes them out of the conversation.
You can start to see why the odds of a trade getting done by Monday are not great, but also not impossible.
What if Scenario One
Alright, let’s get the party started and enter the Buffalo Sabres into this conversation. I’ll preface everything you see from this point on by saying a Karlsson trade is a long shot at best for the Sabres.
It’s fun to dream and wonder what if though right?
So, that’s what we’ll do here.
We know that the Senators are open to trading Karlsson within the division since they’re engaged in talks with the Lightning. The next hurdle in front of the Sabres is are they on Karlsson’s 10 team “no trade” list? It’s possible they are but let’s pretend they’re not, so we don’t ruin the fun.
The next and probably biggest hill to climb is, do the Sabres have enough pieces to even pull off a trade like this?
I’m not sure they do. The best way for the Sabres to get their hands on Karlsson may be in a trade that involves taking on Ryan’s contract. That reason is that it’ll cost fewer assets this way.
That leads us to our final roadblock. The salary cap. According to Cap Friendly, the Sabres have a little over $24 million in cap space with a projected 2018-19 salary cap of $75 million. The talk has been the cap could go up to $80 million next season, give the Sabres $29 million in cap space.
They do have to address a few restricted free agents in the offseason, most notably Sam Reinhart if they intend to keep him. None of them should eat up a big chunk of the cap, but it will add up.
Alright enough setting the landscape let’s jump into the first trade scenario. Before I drop the goods I’ll be laying this out as an NHL Draft trade. Since it’s near impossible to find a situation where a deal could be made at the deadline between the two clubs.
Trade Scenario one:
Buffalo receives: Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan *Ottawa retains ¼ of Ryan’s salary*
Ottawa receives: Rasmus Ristolainen, 2018 first-round pick (not first overall, but 2-5 pick), Alex Nylander and conditional third-round pick 2019 (becomes a second if Karlsson re-signs with the Sabres)
First glance, that 2018 first-round pick jumps out at me. That would be the centerpiece along with Ristolainen. Part of me also feels like the Sabres would need to add one more smaller piece here, but I’m not sure what.
The Sabres obviously wouldn’t make the trade if the ping pong balls bounce right and they get the first overall pick. They can just draft Karlsson 2.0 in Rasmus Dahlin.
Trade Scenario Two
The second trade scenario doesn’t require a lot of explanation because I don’t think it’s that likely and it’ll possibly cost the farm. This trade situation would be without the Sabres taking on the contract of Ryan.
Trade scenario two:
Buffalo receives: Erik Karlsson
Ottawa receives: Rasmus Ristolainen, 2018 first round pick (not first overall), Alex Nylander, Nick Baptiste and 2019 second round pick
Again, I feel like the Senators may need more. The Sabres will want to avoid including Casey Mittelstadt and Brendan Guhle as they’re the top two prospects in the system. It’s also extremely difficult to craft a trade proposal for one of the best players in the league.
This basically brings me to the conclusion that a realistic trade scenario for Karlsson probably is not out there to be had. I’m not sure the Sabres have to pieces to make it happen if they don’t want to include Guhle or Mittelstadt.
These two offers were put together to lay out what the cost could be to get in the conversation.
Personally, I wouldn’t make these trades because of the value of the first-round pick alone. Karlsson is a great player, but he’ll be 28-years-old in May. That’s not old, but I could use the first-round pick to grab a young player that could be an important part of the future for a long time.
As they say though, ‘you have to give to get’.
Now that I’ve set the landscape and threw out two trade ideas. What do you think? What would you be willing to offer for Karlsson? Do you think the Sabres should even consider giving up what it would cost to acquire Karlsson?
Only three days left in the silly season.