Monday Morning Mailbag: Does Nate Schmidt’s suspension open the door for an Erik Karlsson trade?

The Golden Knights sure could use a defenseman right about now!

Happy September! The new season is so close I can nearly smell it. Unfortunately, it looks like Vegas will have to go into the 2018-19 campaign with a bit of a bad taste in its mouth following Nate Schmidt’s 20-game suspension. There’s obviously a lot to cover regarding the suspension, so let’s jump right in and answer some of your Golden Knights questions.

We’ve all heard the rumors. Erik Karlsson isn’t likely to remain a Senator for much longer and the Knights are right in the thick of things as a potential landing spot for the two-time Norris winner. Now that Schmidt is suspended for 20 games, the Knights have an obvious hole on the blue line that cannot be easily filled. Could this sudden quandary pressure Vegas into finally pulling off the blockbuster trade for Karlsson? It’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on it quite yet.

If the Knights were to trade for Karlsson, doing it out of desperation isn’t exactly the best course of action. It’s important to remember that Karlsson will become an unrestricted free agent next summer, so unless he plans on signing a long-term extension with Vegas before then, running the risk of trading a king’s ransom for a one-year rental is a mistake the Knights simply cannot afford to make. Assuming Karlsson would be willing to sign a multi-year extension, though, one would have to think the Knights would seriously consider getting back on the phone with Pierre Dorion, regardless of Schmidt’s status.

To land a player like Karlsson, the Knights would have to give up a ton of assets. Multiple draft picks, prospects and players would have to be included in the deal to make it work. In all likelihood, the Senators would want a young defenseman in return for Karlsson, and that defenseman would probably be Shea Theodore, who’s cemented himself as one of Vegas’ top young stars.

If the Knights are only guaranteed Karlsson for one season, however, it would be best to not make a trade at all. Mortgaging the future for one season with Karlsson is a short-sighted solution to a short-term problem. A long-term stay would be one thing, but Karlsson, even considering his status as one of the best hockey players on the planet, wouldn’t be worth the price if he were in Vegas for only one season.

Assuming Shea Theodore is under contract by the start of the season (which, in all likelihood, he will be), it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see him on the top pairing with Brayden McNabb. The two would compliment one another perfectly and both have performed well together in the past. Theodore may only be 23 years old, but he seems capable of taking on a larger role.

Another possible replacement for Schmidt on the top pairing would be Colin Miller, who was just signed to a four-year contract in July. Miller has established himself as one of the best play-driving defensemen in the entire NHL and is coming off a career year with 10 goals and 41 points through 82 games. In this case, Theodore would remain on the second pairing with Deryk Engelland. The two formed some good chemistry after spending the majority of last season together, so Gerard Gallant and company may find it more appropriate to keep the second pairing as is while promoting Miller.