If you haven’t heard the news, the Ottawa Senators traded all-world defenseman Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks Thursday in exchange for Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris and Rudolfs Balcers along with a 2019 first- or second-round pick and 2019 second-round pick — a stunningly underwhelming return for one of the best hockey players on the planet.
Over the last several months — really since before the trade deadline back in February — the Golden Knights made an effort to bring the two-time Norris Trophy winner to the desert. And considering what San Jose sent to Ottawa in order to land Karlsson, it’s hard to believe the Knights weren’t at least capable of structuring a similar package of equal or even greater value.
At the end of the day, though, they didn’t. And that’s OK.
While trading for Karlsson would have no doubt been exciting (and not to mention a huge step in the Golden Knights’ pursuit of a Stanley Cup), making such a move would have also presented some obvious drawbacks.
First, and most importantly, by not trading for Karlsson, the Knights obviously didn’t have to ship off any of their future assets. All of Vegas’ draft picks, top prospects (excluding Nick Suzuki, who, of course, was involved in the Max Pacioretty trade) and young roster players remain within the organization. So for the crowd forewarning the hitch of mortgaging the future away, have no fear. The farm system remains intact and the young players aren’t going anywhere, so long as Shea Theodore’s contract dispute ever gets resolved.
The farm remaining in pristine condition is the particular benefit to not making the blockbuster deal, though. Prospects Cody Glass, Erik Brannstrom, Nic Hague and Lucas Elvenes have all looked very good this summer and appear to have legitimate futures in the NHL. Specifically, Glass seems to have the highest ceiling of all Knights prospects, and reportedly played a part in why a trade for Karlsson was never able to get done. The Knights are extremely high on the 19-year-old, and it’s not hard to see why. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman recently ranked Glass the 12th-best prospect in the entire NHL, higher than even the likes of Miro Heiskanen, Eeli Tolvanen and Dylan Strome, to name a few, which is very impressive.
But let’s pretend the Knights did trade for Karlsson. While adding one of the best hockey players on the planet is an obvious win, there is no guarantee Karlsson would have remained in Vegas beyond the 2018-19 season. Karlsson will become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and according to hockey insider Elliotte Friedman, an extension for Karlsson was not part of the trade that sent him to San Jose, so who’s to know if he would have remained a Golden Knight for more than just one season? Even getting a player like Karlsson, despite his status as a franchise-changer, could feasibly do more harm than good if, in fact, he doesn’t sign a long-term contract extension.
On that same note, however, the Knights’ chances of eventually landing Karlsson are far from over. If he plays out the 2018-19 season and enters the offseason as an impending free agent, Vegas is very much back in business. To reference the Dumb and Dumber meme, yes, there’s still a chance.
It’s obviously unfortunate that Vegas couldn’t land Karlsson, and it’s even more unfortunate that he’ll now be playing in the Pacific Division. But don’t get it twisted. The Golden Knights are still in great position to build off their unprecedented inaugural campaign, even without the addition of Karlsson.