Trending Topics: Some advice ahead of the NHL Draft

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Hell of a headline in the Edmonton Sun yesterday: “Edmonton Oilers would love to add Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson.”

I don’t know that we necessarily need to qualify Karlsson’s position or employer, but let’s go with it: Of course the Oilers would love to add Karlsson. They need a defenseman, and he’s the third-best one to ever live. He’s also just aging out of his mid-20s and apparently quite unsettled in his current team.

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But at this time of year, and especially this week — ahead of a draft that is almost certain to see a lot of trades — it’s important to keep in mind what people mean when they say the things they say about who’s going where.

The headline here is easily dismissed as a “yeah, no kidding” kind of thing, but what’s actually contained in the article is information, basically, that the Oilers called the Senators and said, “we’d be interested in trading for Karlsson.” Now, what that means is basically nothing. One assumes that Pierre Dorion has fielded calls from approximately all 30 teams (and maybe even the Seattle group) about making a deal here.

The writer here, Jim Matheson, says the Oilers would probably have to give up Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom, plus the No. 10 pick. But it would also be hard for Edmonton to make the money work, which, also no kidding.

But if this sounds more like what could, at best, be called informed speculation, that’s because it is. Spitballing what clubs with big-name guys on the block might want in a trade from insert-team-here is little more than an effort to fill column inches and get clicks. You could copy and paste any “team wants Karlsson” column, change a few names and key details, hit send, and lean back in your chair for a quick nap. Pretty easy, and everyone does it. That’s fine. Who cares, it’s summer.

What’s not fine, though, is how “the Oilers would want to have two of the three best players alive” inevitably gets spun into something that it’s not. Believe me when I tell you the Oilers aren’t particularly close to putting together an attractive package for Karlsson, not unless they make other major moves beforehand. That fabled Milan Lucic trade that will send his ill-advised contract into the heart of the sun would have to happen first and foremost, and folks I gotta tell ya: If you’re convincing a team to take that on, you already have to sweeten the pot pretty effusively. What, then, would be left over for a Karlsson deal in the first place?

So when you see such-and-such a player connected to so-and-so team and maybe they need to move pieces X, Y, and Z to make it work, try not to have a big reaction. I don’t want to say “take it with a grain of salt” because I hate that phrase, but it’s vital to keep in mind that interest doesn’t equal imminence. In this particular case I think everyone recognizes that.

And this isn’t to pick on Matheson, by the way.  Like I said, everyone does this kind of analysis at this time of year, and because it’s the middle of June he’s hardly the only one. Moreover, the guy isn’t lying or anything. This is all in fun.

There was another rumour, this time from a more reputable source in Bob McKenzie, that the Maple Leafs “have creative proposals to present to Tavares if he reaches free agency.” Not that I think McKenzie wants or needs the attention for this kind of reporting, and he’s certainly not one to do make-’em-up rumors, but here, too, the only response has to be, “no kidding.” All 31 teams should have good and interesting proposals ready to go for a player like Tavares, including loading too-expensive veterans onto barges and pushing them out to sea.

Particularly where the Leafs are concerned, they would have to extend a Tavares contract offer a little more creatively because of their roster makeup and who they’ll need to re-sign next summer (Matthews, Marner, Carrick, Gardiner, and maybe some more I’m forgetting). They couldn’t simply say to Tavares, “seven years at $10 million per, with lockout protection.” They would need to say something like, “one year at $15 million and then we’ll revisit,” or an equally non-traditional proposal.

And of course any time you mention the Leafs in connection with anyone most teams might want — especially now that the boy genius Kyle Dubas is running the show — people are going to be in a tizzy over it. Again, that’s not McKenzie trying to get everyone in a tizzy; he’s just relaying information that he receives. But Toronto doing the due diligence of putting together two, three, five proposals that might be of interest to Tavares when the negotiation period opens is likely to be conflated with something like, “the Leafs are aggressively pursuing John Tavares.” Which they might be, and probably should be. But there’s a Malcolm Gladwell-level of logical leap involved, and everyone would be doing themselves a big favour to not make it.

Trades are gonna happen regardless of whether you obsess over them, discuss them ad nauseum and get your hopes up for them.

Because, okay, the Oilers might trade for Karlsson. In theory they could. They probably won’t, but let’s say there’s a two per cent chance it happens. That’s not zero, so we’re all good here. Same with Tavares going to Toronto behind some extremely creative “you get a one per cent ownership stake” with the team stuff. (It worked for Mario, right?) And if you like Toronto’s chances of signing Tavares more than Edmonton’s chance to acquire Karlsson, even if you think they’re the team with the best odds, they’re still a long shot.

Frankly a lot of the ginning up of these rumours comes not from direct sources like Matheson or McKenzie, but rather from people who want to put “Report: ” in a headline and get you to click through, smash the retweet button, or similar. Not like me, who just wants to be very nice and caution you about that kind of online stranger danger.

A thing that is true of me: I don’t like to listen to the singles before an album comes out. I don’t watch the “next week on” previews for TV shows. I try to avoid trailers for movies I want to see. I figure when they are available to me in full, I’ll be really excited about them. Things are imminent, to be sure, but you don’t need to do a lot of analysis or fretting about whether Karlsson or Tavares, to pick two examples, is going to be a good add for the team you like. Let alone whether the team is actually going to add them.

I guess the simplest advice I can give to you for the next few weeks is: Take it easy. It was a long season and you deserve a few weeks off. Don’t make yourself miserable about hockey for once.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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