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Since mid-July, the Erik Karlsson trade-rumor mill was largely quiet. However, a tweet last week by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman linking the Senators captain to the Canucks brought it back to life.
Friedman claimed the Canucks had stepped into the bidding to see if they were a fit, though Vancouver general manager Jim Benning subsequently denied his club had discussions regarding the Senators’ all-star defenseman.
Iain MacIntyre also weighed in, pointing out Benning’s reluctance to part with youngsters such as Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson. He feels the Canucks GM was merely tire-kicking, a view Friedman later agree with.
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Friedman believes the likely destinations for Karlsson are in the Western Conference, suggesting the Stars, Golden Knights and Sharks as the front-runners. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch shares that view but doesn’t rule out the Lightning as a bidder. Garrioch also thinks the recent increase in Karlsson trade rumors suggests a willingness by the Senators to move him before training camp opens next month.
The Stars and Lightning were reportedly very interested in Karlsson in early July. The Golden Knights were pursuing a deal at last February’s trade deadline but it fell through at the last minute. Earlier this summer, Sharks GM Doug Wilson attempted to land free-agent forwards John Tavares and Ilya Kovalchuk and is also thought to have looked into Karlsson’s availability.
One rumor making the rounds claimed Karlsson was unwilling to sign a contract with a Canadian team when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. However, the blueliner told Friedman that wasn’t the case.
The Canucks’ supposed interest in Karlsson represents Benning’s ongoing attempt to land an established franchise star to hasten the club’s rebuild. Two years ago, he publicly expressed interest in Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos. Those remarks earned him a fine from the league for tampering, so it’s no surprise he quickly denied the reports tying his club to Karlsson.
Benning’s unwillingness to part with any of his top young assets significantly decreases his chances of prying Karlsson away from the Senators. There’s also the matter of the blueliner’s 10-team no-trade list, as he could be unwilling to join a rebuilding club. There’s also the cost of re-signing him to a long-term contract extension likely to be worth in excess of $11 million per season.
As for the Stars and Lightning, nothing’s really changed. Both clubs are believed keen to acquire Karlsson. However, the Stars are reportedly unwilling to part with top prospect Miro Heiskanen while the Lightning were having difficulty making the dollars fit. The Sharks have the salary cap room but lack the depth in available young talent to tempt the Senators.
Panarin poised to start season in Columbus
Overlooked in all of last week’s renewed interest in Karlsson was an update by The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline on the status of Blue Jackets left wing Artemi Panarin. The 26-year-old becomes eligible next July for unrestricted free agent status.
Like Karlsson, Panarin’s been a fixture in this summer’s rumor mill after expressing his reluctance to sign a contract extension this summer. He also told Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen he doesn’t want to talk contract once training camp opens on Sept. 13.
Despite the conjecture swirling around Panarin, Portzline doubts he’ll be moved before the start of the season. While there was interest earlier last month, the offers contained draft picks and prospects, not a player to help the Jackets right now.
Rumor had it Panarin had a list of preferred trade destinations — with the Rangers at the top — but his agent denied it. Portzline doubts the rebuilding Rangers would trade assets this season to acquire a player they could sign next summer as a free agent.
Portzline doesn’t rule out the Islanders as Panarin apparently has great respect for GM Lou Lamoriello. The winger also owns a condo near Miami but Portzline doesn’t think that makes the Panthers a possibility, noting he uses that property more as a vacation getaway spot.
A rival club in need of scoring punch could make Kekalainen a tempting offer before the season opens. It appears more likely, however, that the Jackets GM is simply going to see how things unfold this season.