It's NHL trade rumor season. Each week before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, Lyle Richardson's Rumor Roundup column serves as a one-stop guide to the latest rumblings around the league.
The combination of the Senators' lousy season and uncertainty over captain Erik Karlsson's future with the club has made the All-Star defenseman a lightning rod for trade speculation. With the NHL's Feb. 26 trade deadline fast approaching, the 27-year-old Senators captain has once again surfaced in the rumor mill.
On Wednesday, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was engaged in some level of trade dialogue with at least a half dozen clubs regarding Karlsson. Though McKenzie believes Dorion hasn't yet received formal trade offers, he doesn't rule out the possibility of Karlsson being moved at the deadline if the Senators GM receives an acceptable offer.
Karlsson is due to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2019. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports Dorion isn't actively shopping his franchise player but uncertainty over his future has teams making inquiries.
TRADE TRACKER: Rumors, reported deals before the 2018 deadline
McKenzie believes it'll take a substantial offer to pry Karlsson away from the Senators. He speculated it could be “upwards of five, six, seven pieces." That price could be reduced, however, if the interested team also agrees to take on winger Bobby Ryan in the deal. The 30-year-old Ryan has four years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $7.25 million.
That's a very hefty asking price, but it's to be expected for a superstar like Karlsson. Despite being hampered by offseason heel surgery, he still among the world's elite defensemen. The Senators might find a suitable offer before the deadline from a Stanley Cup contender deep in young assets such as the Lightning.
However, several significant hurdles must be overcome.
First, the interested parties must be on Karlsson's list of preferred trade destinations. If they're not, and if he's unwilling to broaden that list, he won't be going anywhere. If the Senators insist on Ryan being included in the deal, he'll also have to agree to waive his no-trade clause.
Another factor is Karlsson's $6.5 million annual cap hit through next season. That's a big chunk of change for any club to absorb, meaning the Senators must take back a salaried player or two or pick up a portion of Karlsson's cap hit. Add Ryan into the deal and that's over $13 million in combined salary.
It's also a good bet that the Senators will want at least two good young NHL players as part of the return for Karlsson. Giving up that much to land a big star could have a disruptive effect upon a club's roster depth and chemistry at a crucial point in this season.
That's usually why superstars, such as Karlsson, tend to get moved in the offseason. Teams have more time to evaluate their rosters for the following season, plus they're flush with additional salary-cap dollars and more receptive to pursuing deals for big-name talent.
It's understandable why Dorion is doing his due diligence. The earliest he can open contract extension talks with Karlsson is July 1. If he feels re-signing Karlsson could be too expensive, it could prove worthwhile to gauge his trade value now.
Even if he doesn't find a suitable offer before the deadline, he could be laying the groundwork for an offseason move, when interested clubs will be in a better position to make better offers.
RUMOR ROUNDUP: Senators set the market with more trades possible
Rangers generating interest
On Tuesday, the Rangers made the first of what's expected to be several moves by shipping defenseman Nick Holden to the Bruins. As the deadline draws near, there will be increased focus on the potential destinations of pending free agents Rick Nash and Michael Grabner.
Following the Holden deal, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported the Predators, Blue Jackets, Stars, Jets and Bruins were among the club with varying degrees of interest in the 32-year-old Nash. The Jets apparently aren't on Nash's trade list, but perhaps he'd consider joining them.
Bob McKenzie, meanwhile, believes Grabner is attracting lots of interest. He carries a $1.6 million cap hit this season and lacks a no-trade clause, making him a cheaper, easier-to-acquire option. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman cited a recent report out of Pittsburgh indicating the Penguins are believed to be among Grabner's suitors.
Updating the Red Wings' plans
Earlier this week, the Red Wings shipped goaltender Petr Mrazek to the Flyers for two conditional draft picks. Like the Rangers, the Wings are sellers approaching the deadline and are expected to make one or two more moves in the coming days.
Given the high price for rental players this year, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports some clubs seeking scoring forwards are looking at players with term remaining on their contracts in hopes they'll be more affordable to acquire. He noted the Predators have interest in Wings forward Tomas Tatar, who has three years remaining on his deal worth an average annual value of $5.3 million.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman also noted the Preds' interest in Tatar. He said the Wings could be willing to move him or Gustav Nyquist but not both. Nyquist has a year left on his contract with a $4.75 million cap hit. However, he also has a no-trade clause while Tatar's doesn't kick in until July 1.