Forever big-game hunting, the San Jose Sharks have finally made their big splash.
The Sharks have acquired Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators for a package that features a collection of draft picks, including a first-round selection in 2020, current roster players Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo, and prospects Josh Norris and Rudolfs Balcers.
Aimed to prohibit a flip to the Florida Panthers (we say with tongue planted in cheek), the Senators will see a second-round pick included in the deal upgrade to a selection in the first round if the Sharks wind up trading the pending unrestricted free agent and star defender to an Eastern Conference team, according to reports.
There are further conditions on picks involved in the deal, including an upgrade if San Jose reaches the Stanley Cup Final.
There’s a ton to unpack here, so let’s look at what this means for the Sharks, Senators and Karlsson himself.
Losing nothing but bit-pieces from their current roster in Tierney and DeMelo to acquire the most talented offensive defenseman in the game, the trade marks a landmark victory for Doug Wilson and the Sharks.
With Karlsson and current roving force Brent Burns, the Sharks boast the only two defenders that have eclipsed 200 points across the last three seasons (no one else is particularly close) and three of the last seven Norris winners. Factor in the stabilizing force that is Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, and the Sharks have three world-class defenders eating up 20-plus minutes every night.
Preserving Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier and the remaining high-end talent on the roster, as well as the first-round selection from this summer’s draft, Ryan Merkley, the Sharks’ acquisition of Karlsson renders them clear favourites in the Pacific Division.
And when you consider how the Sharks did the Senators somewhat dirty on the Mike Hoffman deal, it makes their ability to pull this one off that much more remarkable.
While the Senators boast that they have acquired six assets in the “most important trade” of their rebuild, trimming the fat from the deal leaves two essential assets, both first-round picks. Ottawa will spend one in 2020 (the Senators remain without a first-round pick in 2019, which is hardly the way you want to start a rebuild), while acquiring San Jose’s top selection in 2017: Josh Norris.
Norris, who is, somewhat importantly, Brady Tkachuk’s best bud, is the “top prospect” in a deal that was always to include a potential impact player. Problem is, Norris doesn’t seem to be of the difference-maker variety, instead projecting as a middle-six centre with some skill and smarts. You need those type, but the Senators needed a can’t-miss prospect here.
With the 2020 pick likely not landing in the lottery, there are no assurances that the Senators will have secured a single premium asset in return for the greatest player in franchise history.
Not a fabulous look.
The reason the Karlsson sweepstakes dragged through summer and into training camp (and left the Senators with a meagre return) is Karlsson’s future — which he’s maintained full control of.
Countless trade packages, we can only assume, were dismantled for the sole reason that Karlsson wasn’t willing to commit his future to prospective buyers, instead reserving the right to explore all of his options.
Karlsson escapes the wreckage in Ottawa for a one-year lease and a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup (without the Bobby Ryan baggage), and can then choose his destination for a record-price on the open market.
As much as the Sharks emerged as winners today, Karlsson made absolute hay.
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