As people set off fireworks* and grill untold tons of meats today, it’s possible that the NHL’s grand tradition of explosive Fourth of July blockbusters could continue with an Erik Karlsson trade.
In 2013, the Dallas Stars pulled off quite the Declaration of Competence by fleecing the Boston Bruins for Tyler Seguin, a move the Dallas Morning News and others can chronicle on a yearly basis. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the Stars have been tabbed as the latest frontrunners to land Karlsson’s services … for whatever that’s worth.
The Athletic’s CJ Stevenson and Sean Shapiro both report that the Stars made the best offers for Karlsson so far. Shapiro’s latest update came today, while Stevenson provided additional details about who could move, as young defensemen Miro Heiskanen and/or Julius Honka could be part of the asking price.
It’s difficult to gauge how likely Karlsson-to-Dallas really is. On the bright side, it’s opened the door for people to drop in some early analysis. One of the most interesting questions revolves around whether it would be worth it for the Stars to risk including Heiskanen (an intriguing Finnish defenseman who was the third pick in 2017) in the trade.
For the moment, let’s put the prospect discussion aside, and look big picture about how Karlsson might impact the Stars.
* – Be careful!
A superstar right-handed Swede on defense almost every shift?
As much as the Stars have bumbled in drafting and development over the years, John Klingberg‘s an absolute gem they found in the fifth round (131st overall) in 2010. He drew some Norris buzz last season before cooling off, and his dirt-cheap $4.25 million cap hit runs through 2021-22.
Both Karlsson and Klingberg are right-handed defensemen, which might inspire the Stars to primarily rotate them rather than put them on the ice at the same time if Karlsson lands in Dallas.
Of course, there could be exceptions. Landing Karlsson would force some shifting as far as Dallas’ power play goes, and it would almost be silly not to have both of them on the ice when the Stars empty their net trying to score a late goal in a game.
Yet even under typical alignments, the Stars would enjoy the blissful luxury of rarely icing a defense that doesn’t include one of them.
Since 2012-13, Karlsson’s logged an average of 27:23 TOI per game, second only to Fourth of July Minnesota Wild signee Ryan Suter. John Klingberg’s 23:03 ties him for 30th during that span, and the 25-year-old averaged a career-high of 24:04 per night last season.
Over the years, it’s been frustrating to watch the Stars land big-time players like Tyler Seguin only to surround them with mediocre-to-bad supporting cast members. That’s been especially irritating on the blueline, as the Stars have seen more modern-style defensemen leave (examples: Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers) while adding sluggish types such as Marc Methot and Roman Polak.
It might not matter a whole lot if the Stars win the Karlsson sweepstakes.
While it would be better if Karlsson didn’t need to lug Methot around like he did in Ottawa, it’s not as if he isn’t experienced in carrying lesser defense partners. Consider the bewildering fact that, via Natural Stat Trick, Karlsson’s most frequent pairing was with Johnny Oduya. In 2017-18.
Simply put, few players can make the impact Karlsson can, as he isn’t just great … he can also log a ton of ice time, keeping less-great players on the bench more often.
Win now, and win later?
Here’s something that might sneak up on you: the core of the Stars is getting a little older.
Jamie Benn is 28, and there was at least mild concern that he was slowing down – by his standards – last season. Alex Radulov was great in his debut season with Dallas, yet he’s also 31. Ben Bishop is 31 too, and sometimes that’s a scary thought, as injuries have been an issue at times for the towering goalie. Recent Stars additions are largely at risk of suffering age-related decline (Methot is 33, Blake Comeau and Polak are both 32).
Karlsson, 28, remains in the meat of his prime and would push a strangely middling Stars roster to a higher level. Dallas can’t wait forever to climb the ranks.
One potentially brilliant impact could be that, in landing Karlsson, the Stars might entice Tyler Seguin to stick around.
Seguin, 26, sees his absurdly low $5.75M cap hit expire after 2018-19. He’d be a UFA if the Stars couldn’t convince him to sign an extension, and while Dallas has had its highs, it would be easy to see why he might want to leave for a clearer contender if the growing pains continue. After all, that would be his first chance to really choose his team after being drafted by Boston and traded to the Stars.
Putting Karlsson in the mix could really inspire Seguin to just sign an extension. Don’t forget that NHL players have a ton of incentive to extend deals compared to, say, NBA players, as the injury risk must be a greater concern.
Such a risk might be worth taking if the Stars remain as a “bubble team,” but a future with Karlsson and Ben along with the security of an extension might be too sweet a bargain to pass up.
(Now, naturally, it would be a tight squeeze to fit Seguin and Karlsson under the cap, yet such struggles are easily worth the mental gymnastics.)
Few people outside of the Stars and Senators organizations know how close a Karlsson deal might be.
Even so, it’s entertaining to ponder the potential of adding another, well, star to the Stars. We’ll find out if Karlsson’s destination is revealed during this American holiday or if the hockey world will be forced to speculate deeper into the summer.