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As the calendar flips to August, the 2018 NHL offseason has entered its dog days. Notable free-agent signings are a thing of the past and there’s little activity in the trade market. As a result, media-driven conjecture has slowed to a crawl.
That wasn’t the case in early July, when trade speculation was rampant regarding Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. After Karlsson reportedly rejected an eight-year contract extension offer, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was said to be entertaining trade offers for the 28-year-old superstar.
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The Stars and Lightning were considered the main suitors. At one point, there was anticipation that a trade sending Karlsson to the Lightning was imminent. The deal failed to materialize and the trade chatter regarding the Senators captain has largely died down.
Despite the talk of Karlsson to Tampa Bay being almost a done deal, The Athletic’s Joe Smith said he was told it was never close. He noted the Lightning’s interest in Karlsson stretching back to the trade deadline and expects they’ll continue monitoring the situation.
Smith’s colleague Chris Stevenson reported the Senators’ offer to Karlsson was competitive with the eight-year, $88 million contract defenseman Drew Doughty signed with the Kings in late June. However, it lacked the type of front-loaded signing bonuses similar to those Doughty and Maple Leafs center John Tavares received in their respective deals.
As for the Stars’ pursuit of Karlsson, NHL.com’s Mark Stepneski reported talks have quieted on that front. Despite the lack of movement in the trade market, general manager Jim Nill told Stepneski there are still discussions going on with other teams, though he declined to indicate if those talks involved Karlsson.
Stevenson and Smith agree Dorion doesn’t intend to lose Karlsson to free agency for nothing next summer. However, it’s expected he’ll patiently wait for the right trade offer. If the Senators don’t up their offer to Karlsson, Stevenson feels the blueliner will be moved before next February’s NHL trade deadline.
Dorion’s asking price could be a significant sticking point. It’s believed he expressed interest in the Lightning’s promising defenseman Mikhail Sergachev while the Stars’ top blueline prospect Miro Heiskanen also caught his eye.
The salary cap could be an issue for the Lightning; they have over $2.6 million in projected space. They’ll have to ship out considerable salary to both make room for Karlsson’s $6.5-million cap hit for 2018-19 and to re-sign him to a lucrative extension. Hence the talks of Lightning GM Steve Yzerman trying to get a third team involved in the deal.
If the Lightning fail to land Karlsson, Smith thinks they’ll consider other options to bolster their blueline. Those could include the Jets’ Jacob Trouba, the Hurricanes’ Justin Faulk or the Canucks’ Chris Tanev.
Will Hurricanes make another big move?
The Hurricanes pulled off one of this summer’s biggest trades. During the 2018 NHL draft weekend, they shipped forward Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin to the Flames for blueliner Dougie Hamilton, winger Micheal Ferland and defense prospect Adam Fox.
While this was a significant move, The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin believes the Hurricanes might not be done dealing. He points out they still have two significant trade chips in defenseman Justin Faulk and forward Jeff Skinner, who’ve been the subjects of considerable trade chatter this summer.
The recent additions of Hamilton and free-agent signing Calvin de Haan provides the Hurricanes with considerable blueline depth, potentially making Faulk expendable. Larkin suggests the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs could be interested in the right-shot defenseman. Skinner, meanwhile, could interest the Blackhawks, Bruins, Oilers and Penguins.
Larkin notes the Hurricanes lack a dominant center. He doubts Faulk and Skinner will land that type of player and could instead receive offers of draft picks and prospects for each.
Earlier this month, there were rumors claiming the Hurricanes sought either left wing Brandon Saad or center Nick Schmaltz from the Blackhawks in return for Skinner. If that speculation is any indication of the high cost for either player, it’s no wonder they haven’t moved yet.
Teams could also be waiting to see what happens with the status of Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson and wingers such as Columbus’ Artemi Panarin and Montreal’s Max Pacioretty. If one of those players are traded in the coming weeks, it could improve the Hurricanes’ chances of moving Faulk or Skinner.