After what seemed like an eternity of rumours and speculation, Erik Karlsson is finally no longer an Ottawa Senator. The trade, as everybody was expecting sooner or later, went down Thursday and sent the two-time Norris Trophy winner to the San Jose Sharks along with forward Francis Perron.
In return, the Senators received forwards Chris Tierney and Rudolfs Balcers, defenceman Dylan DeMelo, the rights to unsigned forward Joshua Norris, a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft or 2020 NHL Draft, a second-round pick in the 2019 draft, and two conditional draft picks.
The trade is an exclamation point on what has been a disastrous period for the Senators, a time marked by endless toxicity and internal strife. This is a franchise that seems to be imploding, a team driven by media saturation and “what ifs” more than anything else.
Ottawa evidently tried to offer Karlsson a contract extension in July, but it was not to be. Everyone knows how the summer has played out for the Senators, with problems in the locker room and problems in the boardroom and problems everywhere. There were countless reports, there was strife on social media, there were awkward videos. You name it.
So, in a way, the Karlsson trade feels like sweet relief. The Senators can get on with whatever comes next and Erik Karlsson can ride off into the sunset of San Jose to face the next phase of his career.
The Sharks automatically become a very lethal hockey club. Karlsson joins Brent Burns and will formulate San Jose’s blueline into a nasty one, with a power play that should put up some serious numbers. Burns and Karlsson have been first and second in scoring at their position for the last three seasons and you can just imagine how that’s going to bear out.
Burns and Karlsson will, in all likelihood, sit atop the power play unit with Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and probably a returning and healthy Joe Thornton. That’s a really, really potent group. All players will gain offensive potential.
Even in the Sharks split Karlsson and Burns, which would be akin to what Nashville does with P.K. Subban and Roman Josi, you’re still looking at incredible production.
The former Senator, for his part, never asked for a trade out of Ottawa. But it didn’t really matter, especially given an ownership group and a management contingency bent on transformation, in whatever form. And now the Senators have the tools for it, in a manner of speaking. They didn’t have the cash Karlsson would be able to fetch and they didn’t have the environment Karlsson wanted to stay in.
There will be a time of adjustment for the Senators. You don’t get over a loss like Erik Karlsson that quickly or that easily. And the return will never seem quite enough for the franchise’s best player.
But eventually, the dust will settle, and the trade will be ancient history. The Sharks will have their successes and that blueline will be as deadly as it is going to be, while the Senators will forge a new path ahead and young blueliners like Thomas Chabot will step into the gap. And that could generate its own form of excitement.