Why the Golden Knights’ pursuit of Erik Karlsson fell short

Unsurprisingly, the inclusion of Bobby Ryan’s gargantuan contract was apparently why a potential Erik Karlsson trade to Vegas never happened.

All the talk leading up to this year’s NHL Trade Deadline was about Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson — and for good reason. A player like Karlsson is rarely made available, let alone publicly shopped like he was.

Naturally, a ton of teams reportedly had interest in the 27-year-old Swede, but it sounds like the closest team to actually pulling off a deal for him was the Vegas Golden Knights.

It was no secret the Knights were interested — and actively pursuing — Karlsson, but they ultimately fell short of acquiring him. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, though, the Golden Knights were in “deep talks” with Ottawa right up until the deadline at 3 p.m. EST.

So why didn’t this deal happen? Where could things have gone wrong?

Well, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the inclusion of Bobby Ryan is what caused this deal to fall apart. Friedman went into more detail about the potential trade that never was during his weekly 31 Thoughts column.

On Karlsson, my sense is the Vegas trade fell apart because of how the purchase price would be adjusted by Bobby Ryan’s inclusion. I’m not 100 percent sure if it was Ottawa’s ask or Vegas’ offer, but one of the rumblings is that the teams were talking two first-rounders, a high-level prospect and a conditional pick for Karlsson — the condition being whether or not the Golden Knights re-signed him. Whatever the case, it didn’t happen and I can’t imagine Vegas would have been willing to do all that if they were taking Ryan’s contract, too.

It sounds like all the rumors were true. To trade for Karlsson, a team would need to trade for Ryan as well. The problem with Ryan’s contract, however, is that it’s massive.

The 30-year-old oft-injured forward is set to make $7.5 million a year through 2022 and carries a $7.25 million cap hit. Of course, Vegas has tons of cap space, but after taking on $2 million of Derick Brassard’s contract, did the Knights really want to add another financial burden to their books and potentially handcuff themselves in the future? It doesn’t sound like it.

If it was indeed George McPhee who was being hesitant to pull the trigger on this deal, do you blame him? I mean, what the actual offer was remains unknown, but based on what Friedman said above, the cost of two first-rounders, a high-level prospect (presumably Shea Theodore, who was linked in Karlsson trade rumours, or Nick Suzuki) and a conditional pick is a hefty price to pay when you consider the Knights would be taking on Ryan’s entire contract.

Another part of the equation here is that perhaps the Golden Knights were satisfied with the package and it was instead Ottawa who wasn’t. After all, the Sens were not only adamant about including Ryan in a potential Karlsson trade, but they also wanted a king’s ransom in return.

There are a lot of layers to go through in this potential trade and unless Karlsson re-signs in Ottawa soon, I’m sure we’ll revisit many of them during the offseason when the trade rumours likely heat up again. Until then, speculation over what could've been and where things went wrong will be fun to monitor.