It has become more and more clear that the Ottawa Senators are preparing to trade their franchise player. Whether it’s before tomorrow’s deadline, or at some point this summer, Erik Karlsson is going to be moved out of Ottawa.
The rumor du jour is that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators are deep into trade discussions, but that they are looking for a third team to help facilitate the deal from a salary cap perspective.
As we saw with the Derick Brassard trade to Pittsburgh, the Senators were able to offload one of their higher paid players by getting a third team involved to eat some of the salary cap hit. Brassard was first traded to the Vegas Golden Knights, who then retained 40% of his cap hit before flipping the 30-year old center to the Penguins.
It was a convoluted trade, that had its first attempt rejected by the NHL, but eventually saw Brassard end up with the team that wanted him, at a discounted price.
Now, the Senators are trying to do something similar - this time with one of the best players in the entire NHL.
Erik Karlsson’s time in Ottawa is nearing an end and by all reports, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are putting on a full court press in order to bring the star defenseman to Florida. The problem is the salary cap.
The Lightning are currently at $72.9m against the cap and while Karlsson has a very reasonable $6.5m cap hit, Tampa would have a hard time fitting him in as the roster is currently constituted. As a result, they are looking to engage a third or even fourth team.
Last night on Hockey Night in Canada, it was mentioned that the Montreal Canadiens - as well as a couple others - had been engaged in talks to help facilitate the trade. This is where Joe Sakic should be jumping in.
The most valuable asset the Colorado Avalanche have at this year's trade deadline is cap space. They currently have the second-lowest payroll in the NHL and have more flexibility going forward than just about anyone. A couple weeks ago, we took a look at how the Avs could use their cap space to bring in assets - this is a new option.
There are a few different ways the Avs could benefit from helping out. Like with Vegas in the Brassard trade, the Avalanche could take on Karlsson briefly in order to retain some salary before moving him along to the Lightning. Karlsson has one more year left on his contract so any retained salary would carry over until next season, but that’s not something Joe Sakic needs to worry about. As the team currently sits, the Avs are going to have to spend money this summer simply to get to the cap floor. Colorado could lower Karlsson's cap hit to about $4m and gain an asset from the Lightning as a result.
Would a 3rd round pick this summer be worth $2.5m on the books next season? I’d say so.
The other option would be for the Colorado Avalanche to take a salary dump from the Lightning. If Tampa has to keep Karlsson's entire $6.5m cap hit, Steve Yzerman is going to be looking to ship out a contract to make room - the most likely would be Braydon Coburn. The 32-year old defenseman has one more year left on a contract that is paying him $3.7m. He is currently 5th among Lightning defensemen in time-on-ice and is a guy that would be easy to subtract from the lineup with the addition of Karlsson. The only problem with this is that Coburn has a no-trade clause, so it might take some convincing for him to agree to a trade away from the best team in the NHL.
If they would work out the NTC part, taking an expensive Coburn for next season would be a decent move if the Avs are getting a pick or prospect to come along.
As we get down to the final hours before the deadline, NHL GMs are going to be throwing around dozens of different scenarios. This is just one of them.
The Avalanche are likely going to be quiet at the deadline tomorrow, though they don't have to be. If Sakic can get creative, it’s not hard to see a way that the Avs can bring in a few extra assets that can help build towards the future.