Let’s play a little game.
Let’s pretend you — yes, you! — are one of the 30 general managers running an NHL team outside of Ottawa.
Out of that group of general managers, you are in charge of one of the teams that has the necessary salary cap space to acquire superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson, not only one of the best players in the NHL, but the most impactful and dominant defenseman of the modern era. Also one of the most impactful and dominant defenseman to probably ever play in the league.
You are also a team that Karlsson would have an interest in signing a long-term contract extension with, potentially keeping him on your roster for the next seven or eight years. That is a rare position to be in, and in the right situation it could help build a potential championship team. Players like Karlsson do not come around very often, and it is even rarer that you get the opportunity to actually acquire one in a trade.
When that opportunity presents itself there is one thing you should not do: Let a prospect get in the way of completing that deal.
[Related: What would Erik Karlsson mean to Stars?]
I mention this because it has been reported that the Dallas Stars, one of the apparent front-runners to acquire Karlsson in a trade, are not willing to part with defenseman Miro Heiskanen in a potential deal.
This comes after it was reported that Vegas’ unwillingness to part with 2017 first-round pick Cody Glass was one of the hold ups.
It is almost certain that every other team looking to acquire Karlsson has a prospect of their own that they are not willing to part with, essentially making them “untouchable” in trade talks. Every team has that one prospect they have high hopes and expectations for. A lot of times we — media, fans, teams — tend to overvalue that prospect.
Given the nature of a salary capped league it is understandable why prospects are so valuable. When they first hit the NHL they make peanuts compared to more established players and can provide immense value based on that — if they are as good as you hope. You do not want to trade them for just any random player. In Dallas’ case, a player like Heiskanen has immense potential and could be a foundational player for a long time if he develops as expected..
But do you know who would definitely be a foundational piece for a long time?
The reality is that a lot of times that prospect you are clutching on to and refusing to part with does not always turn out and develop the way you want them to. Karlsson is also not just any random player. He is a superstar. He is, when he is at his best and fully healthy, arguably one of the three best players in the NHL right now behind only Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid.
Maybe it is overstating things a bit, but there is probably a 95 percent chance that a team is still going to get more value out of Karlsson over the next seven years — even at this point in his career when he will be playing in his age 28 through 35 seasons — than any prospect in the league. Even if that prospect becomes the player you think and hope they can become. That is just how good Karlsson is. Especially if you put him on a team next to John Klingberg. Or next to Victor Hedman. Or next to anybody, really.
[Related: Five logical landing spots for Erik Karlsson]
This is not to say one of these teams should just give up their entire farm system or trade 20 pieces to get him. But if you are Jim Nill in Dallas and Pierre Dorion insists on Heiskanen being the centerpiece of a potential trade, is it smart to entirely leave him off the table and risk losing the opportunity to land a true superstar? If you are George McPhee and have a chance to give your expansion team its first superstar, a player you could still build around (especially with all of that salary cap space and the number of future draft picks you still have), how can you let Cody Glass get in the way of that? You do not trade prospects like that for some second-line center rental at the trade deadline. But when you have a chance to get an Erik Karlsson? You have to swing for the fences when you get that opportunity.