Breaking Down the Erik Karlsson Trade

Updated: Sep 14, 2018


Source: Pension Plan Puppets

After months of speculation, it's finally happened.


There have been rumors floating around of a possible Erik Karlsson deal for a long time, but nothing came of it. First, questions arose about a trade to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline back in February. Just a month ago, insiders reported the Tampa Bay Lightning were in on the star defenseman.


But today, the Ottawa Senators traded the Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for...a lot:


To San Jose: defenseman Erik Karlsson, prospect Francis Perron

To Ottawa: forwards Chris Tierney and Rudolfs Balcers, defenseman Dylan DeMelo, prospect Josh Norris, 2019 2nd round pick, conditional 2020 1st round pick, conditional 2021 2nd round pick


Not only is the trade confusing in itself with all the conditions and whatnot, but so are the circumstances surrounding Karlsson, the Sharks and the Senators that are essential to analyzing the deal. So, instead of just reporting on the trade itself, let's break it down even further to better understand exactly how this all played out by asking a few questions:


1. What did San Jose get?

2. What did Ottawa get?

3. Who won the trade?

4. What are the Ottawa Senators doing?



1. What did San Jose get?


No offense to the prospect randomly thrown into the deal - sorry, Francis - but Erik Karlsson is the main man of this trade.


There's not too much to analyze here because, as hockey fans, we all know the kind of player Karlsson is. If you don't, you probably live under a rock. But let's take a quick look at his career anyway.


Drafted 15th overall by the Senators in 2008, he's a two-time Norris Trophy winner and easily the Senators best player. In nine seasons, Karlsson has recorded 126 goals, 392 assists and 518 points. He's led the Senators in both assits and points every year since 2013-2014. Karlsson also leads all NHL defenseman in assists and points since he entered the league in 2009. His offensive production is incredible, but he's also good at that defense thing, too. His possession numbers have almost always been positive (he was below 50% Fenwick-for once), and he's done it with little to no help on the back end.


It probably goes without saying, but Erik Karlsson is most likely the best defenseman in the league. And now, the Sharks are stacked on defense with this addition and the likes of Brent Burns and Marc-Eduoard Vlasic. Brendon Dillon and Justin Braun aren't exactly bad, either. It's obvious general manager Doug Wilson wanted to add as much as possible to make sure this team has a shot at the Cup this season and beyond, and they most definitely do.


2. What did Ottawa get?


As listed above, Ottawa received a bunch of things in return for Karlsson. But does it equate to his actual worth?


Honestly, no. The Senators kind of dug themselves a hole in this situation by pushing off deals for so long. Everyone values players differently, but I think everyone can agree than Karlsson is worth a lot more than the Sens got for him.


Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo are the roster players in the deal. Tierney, a 24-year-old center, has four seasons under his belt. He hit career-highs in all general offensive categories last year and finished 5th on the team in points (40). DeMelo, a defenseman, recorded 20 points in 63 games and blocked 70 shots. These guys were not essential to the Sharks' roster with pretty cheap cap hits.


The other players, forwards Rudolf Balcers and Josh Norris, are prospects. Balcers, a 5th round pick in 2015, spent last season with the San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks' AHL affiliate. He led the team in goals (23) and assists (48). He also played for Latvia at the IIHF World Championships in May, picking up six points in eight games. Norris is the more intriguing prospect of the two, though. The 19th overall pick in 2017 had a decent freshman year at the University of Michigan with 23 points in 37 games and an appearance in the Frozen Four. Norris also played for the U.S. at the 2018 World Junior Championships, picking up three points in seven games and earning a bronze medal.


In his NHL farm system rankings, The Athletic's Corey Pronman ranked Norris 3rd and Balcers 4th in the Sharks' system, which ranked 17th overall. While these prospects are perfectly capable of making the NHL in a few years, they're not exactly elite talent the Sens can build their team around. They're simple legit prospects. It's apparent the Sharks didn't want to give up their most important roster players or prospects, like Timo Meier and Ryan Merkley, in this deal.


Now, the picks are pretty confusing, given all the conditions involved. Instead of writing them all out, here's a screenshot of the details from the Ottawa Senators press release:



In the best-case scenario, the Senators could end up with three first round picks and a second. If the conditions don't work out, Ottawa will end up with a first and a second. Truthfully, it's not exactly ideal for a team that just gave up one of the best players in the league and in their team's history.


3. Who won the trade?


Once again, Doug Wilson took advantage of Ottawa's hands being tied up in a sticky situation and made a steal of a trade.


In June, the Senators dealt Mike Hoffman - and other things - to the Sharks for forward Mikkel Boedker, prospect Julius Bergman and a 2020 6th-round pick. Just a few hours later, the Sharks flipped Hoffman and a 2018 7th-round pick to the Panthers for a 2019 2nd and a 4th and 5th in 2018 without the Senators knowing beforehand.


Then Wilson acquires Karlsson without giving up any important prospects or roster players. Yes, he gave up picks with conditions that are easily attainable goals for the Sharks, but this team has been in contention for the Stanley Cup for a long time now. Wilson knows the core of his team is aging every year and their window to win the Cup is slowly diminishing. His put his team in the running for key free agents like John Tavares and Ilya Kovalchuk, unfortunately missing out on both.


Even though there's not an extension for Karlsson currently in place, Wilson hinted this deal was made with the hopes of keeping the defenseman long term. However, Karlsson did not acknowledge if he'd be willing to extend with the Sharks before hits free agency at the end of next season.


With this trade, the Sharks got their man and let the league know they're not messing around this season. If you doubted this team in the past, don't do it this time.


4. What are the Ottawa Senators doing?


Honestly, I think everyone is asking themselves this question and can't seem to come up with a logical answer. The Ottawa Senators haven't always been this awful, so why are they all of a sudden a mess? I'll try and make some sense of how they're reached rock bottom and how they got there so fast.


Two seasons ago, Ottawa defied all odds and made it to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2007, when they eventually lost to the Ducks in the Stanley Cup Final. They pushed the eventual Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins to game seven, losing in double overtime.


Last season, they completely fell apart. The Senators turned into major sellers at the deadline and their ticket sales plummeted. Rumors brewed of a possible relocation, which owner Eugene Melynk debunked quickly. On June 1, assistant general manager Randy Lee was charged with second-degree harassment of a 19-year-old boy while he was in Buffalo for the NHL Draft Combine. The Senators suspended Lee on June 15, but he eventually resigned in August prior to his trial.


Just a couple of weeks later, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Erik Karlsson's wife, Melinda, filed an order of protection against Mike Hoffman's girlfriend for alleged harassment throughout the 2017-2018 season. The harassment gained steam after the Karlssons' birth of their stillborn son. The Senators traded Hoffman a few days after the allegations were reported.


With talks of Karlsson being traded before the beginning of training camp in the air, the Ottawa Senators tweeted a video on Monday, acknowledging the beginnings of a long, painful rebuild. The responses to the video were not pleasant, deservedly so because the video is just that awful. Defenseman Mark Borowiecki acted as the interviewer of Melnyk, who did not give a clear plan as to what the Senators' rebuild entails, leaving fans mad and frustrated.

Oh yeah. Don't forget that Ottawa traded for Matt Duchene before any of this happened. The Senators gave up Kyle Turris, Andrew Hammond, prospect Shane Bowers, a 2019 1st and a 2019 3rd in that deal. That's not looking so good right now, is it?


If you're confused, don't worry. I can't quite wrap my head around all of this, either. For some reason, Canadian teams have had a very difficult time recently. The Leafs and Jets worked themselves out of their funks, and the Flames were never really terrible enough for people to talk a lot about them. But the Senators are extra special in that their owner doesn't know how to stop talking. Melnyk has Pierre Dorion strapped down and won't let the guy do his job without ownership approval. He drove Daniel Alfredsson out of town, both as a player and an executive. Then he decides Erik Karlsson isn't going to be part of their rebuild plans, so he's not worth keeping. Don't be surprised if Mark Stone also isn't a member of this team after this year.


I truly feel awful for Senators fans. Just over a year ago, they were a win away from a chance at the Stanley Cup. Now, the playoffs aren't even in sight. I wish I had a logical explanation for everything that's happened, but I can't piece one together. There's no excuse for the way ownership has handled this team not just over the last year, but for a while. And unless people can complain enough to force Melnyk to sell the team, I don't know if issues are going to be resolved in the near future. Let's hope the Senators handle the rebuild well, because they're in even more trouble if they don't get it together fast.



Follow Juliana Nikac on Twitter: @juliananikac.


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