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If someone would have told you during the Senators deep playoff run last year that less than 10 months later Erik Karlsson would be traded, we all would’ve had a good laugh before going right back to sipping on whatever mind-altering tea we were indulging in that day.
Welp, take another swig, because Ottawa’s captain could very well be on the move a lot quicker than anyone could have imagined. Amid escalating tensions the past few months between the 27-year-old and the team, it’s now clear that Karlsson is no longer the untouchable piece he was perceived to be merely months ago.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie said on Wednesday the odds of Karlsson getting flipped before Monday afternoon’s trade deadline are probably less than 50/50, but it’s very evident that Ottawa’s management group are open and willing to listen and engage in talks regarding one of the world’s elite blueliners — one who seemed as invincible an asset as there was in the NHL, but here we are.
“The reality is Ottawa Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorion has been, and still is, engaged in some level of trade dialogue for Karlsson with multiple NHL teams, certainly more than a half-dozen,” McKenzie wrote, also noting that, “to the best of our knowledge, the Senators have not received formal offers on Karlsson.”
Whether Karlsson gets dealt by the deadline or not doesn’t change how crazy this all is. Last spring in a postseason performance for the ages, he almost single handedly led a very overmatched Senators club all the way to the Stanley Cup final — coming within one shot of beating the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Karlsson’s ability to produce offensively, combined with a dominant display of speed, skill and saviness with the puck (with a fractured foot, no less) cemented the Sens captain as one of, if not the best, blueliners in the game.
However, in a swift and furious turn of events, the relationship has gotten very messy, and Owner Eugene Melnyk has basically been at the centre of it all. It all started when Karlsson told a group of reporters back in November that “I’m going to get what I’m worth and it’s going to be no less, no matter where I’m going,” in reference to his pending 2019 free agency. Within days, rumours started swirling that the team had asked its captain to submit his no-trade list to the club — the names of teams around the NHL for which he would waive his no-movement clause.
Cracks in the union, be it personal or professional (or both), really started to show about a month ago, when Dorion eluded to the ole’ “even Gretzky got traded” sentiment while saying he would be “open” to listening to trade offers for No. 65. And, earlier in February, that same GM was handed a three-year contract extension and fronted the responsibility of re-jigging a team with a “renewed commitment to scouting, drafting and development.”
AKA: a rebuild.
With owner Melnyk clearly calling the shots, Dorion is obviously handcuffed by the man who just granted him a fresh contract to carry out his vision of building a team that competes year in and year out without spending anywhere near the cap.
Whether it goes down before Monday or takes until the summer for Karlsson and the organization to part ways, it’s really looking more and more apparent that this once happy marriage is heading toward a premature divorce.
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