Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson has been the talk of many trade rumors toward the end of the 2017-18 season. With the Senators near the bottom of the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference, speculation is that the team might be willing to part ways with their captain in order to acquire the pieces needed to build a future contender.
The Swedish-born defenseman, drafted 15th overall in 2008, is in the penultimate year of a $45.5 million dollar, backloaded seven-year deal he signed in 2012, according to Spotrac.
“Erik Karlsson signed a 7 year / $45,500,000 contract with the Ottawa Senators, including $45,500,000 guaranteed, and an annual average salary of $6,500,000.”
Karlsson is a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the league’s best defenseman. He earned $2.8 million during the first year of his current contract, $5.5 million the next year, $6.5 million for the 2014-15 season, $7 million in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, and is earning $7 million this season. He’ll be paid $7.5 million for the 2018-19 season, after which he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, one who’s due for a serious payday.
His $6.5 million cap hit is the second highest on the Senators roster, behind winger Bobby Ryan’s $7 million average annual value, according to Spotrac. He’s Ottawa’s highest paid defenseman by a wide margin; the Senators’ next-highest-paid blue liner is Cody Ceci, whose contract carries a $2.8 million cap hit, good for 12th on the roster.
As far as defensemen across the league go, Karlsson’s $6.5 million annual average value puts him in a three-way tie for 14th with the Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara and Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues. Leading defensemen in the league is the Nashville Predators’ P.K. Subban, who earns an average $9 million per season, followed by the San Jose Sharks’ Brent Burns at $8 million average and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who averages $7.88 million.
Karlsson’s position among the NHL’s highest-paid defensemen is expected to much higher by the time the ink dries on his next contract, and he knows it.
“When I go to market, I’m going to get what I’m worth, and it’s going to be no less, no matter where I’m going,” Karlsson told the Ottawa Sun in November. “That’s the business part of it. That’s the way every player has been treated ever since this league has started, and I think the players have been a little bit on the other side of things when it comes to negotiations. I think it’s time to realize that when we go to the table, it’s business on both parts, not just (owners),” he added.
Karlsson, 27, may be a hot commodity in the hockey world, but that doesn’t mean that teams don’t have reservations about him. He missed the beginning of the 2017-18 season recovering from surgery to repair torn tendons in his left foot.
In addition to the injury concerns, there is also speculation that teams looking to acquire Karlsson from Ottawa may have to take on Bobby Ryan’s contract as well. TSN’s Bob McKenzie believes that Senators general manager Pierre Dorion will be asking for a huge return for giving up the league’s top d-man.
“I think the Ottawa Senators are somewhat open to the idea of trading Erik Karlsson between now and the deadline and as a result those conversations are taking place. But it’s got to be for an absolutely huge haul. We’re hearing upwards of five, six, seven pieces and perhaps teams being asked to take on Bobby Ryan’s contract that has four years to go at more at $7 million a year,” McKenzie told Darren Dreger TSN’s “Insider Trading” segment.