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Erik Karlsson on Ottawa: ‘I never wanted to leave this place’

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There was no prepared statement. Erik Karlsson wanted to “speak from the heart.”

Karlsson addressed the Ottawa media following the announcement of Thursday’s trade that sent him to the San Jose Sharks. Everyone knew this day was coming. With the direction the Senators are currently heading, the best move for the franchise was to part with the face of the organization.

Fighting back tears, Karlsson explained that the Senators’ vision of their team going forward did not include him.

“I think they made it very clear in what direction they were going [in],” Karlsson said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t part of that, and I respect that. It’s their decision and I wish them nothing but the best. I think that they’re going to do wonderful things. They have a good group of guys down there that are extremely motivated to keep pushing forward and doing whatever they have to do to be successful, not only this year but for a long time.

“I was not part of that plan. That’s why we’re standing here today. From my point of view, that’s sad. I never wanted to leave this place. At the same time, I respect their decision. That’s their decision to make and I wish them nothing but the best.”

[Erik Karlsson dealt to Sharks as Senators continue roster teardown]

In exchange for Karlsson, the Senators acquired a package of Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, plus two conditional picks.

Ottawa’s “plan” has apparently been in place since February, going by what general manager Pierre Dorion said. It was put together by the GM and owner Eugene Melnyk and it was determined that a successful rebuild would not be possible without trading Karlsson, which would bring in a hefty return. The return was big, but we’re still years away from determing just how fruitful it will be for the franchise.

“This was not an easy situation for us to trade a player of Erik Karlsson’s caliber,” said Dorion. “But for us to be where we need to be for the long-term, we had to make this decision at this point in time.”

Last September, the Senators entered training camp coming off their most successful season in a decade. They even added Matt Duchene in the opening month, loading up for what they thought would be another playoff run. But then it all went south and the talk of extending Karlsson quickly transitioned into a trade sweepstakes. Over time it was a given that he would be moved, but the two-time Norris Trophy winner still felt surprised when it finally became a reality.

“I haven’t really wrapped my mind around that. We’re in this situation we’re in right now and you have to deal with it,” said Karlsson. “Once it settles down here a little bit you can start looking ahead and moving forward a bit. As of right now, it’s extremely emotional and a sad moment.

“Even though you’ve heard a lot of things about this could be possible, you can’t really prepare for any of this. So, it’s sad.”

MORE: Karlsson trade gives Sharks NHL’s most explosive defense

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Erik Karlsson dealt to Sharks as Senators continue roster teardown

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The long-awaited Erik Karlsson traded has finally been completed and the talented defenseman and prospect Francis Perron are heading to the San Jose Sharks. In return, the Ottawa Senators will receive Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, plus two conditional picks.

Here are the details on those picks:

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson went hard after John Tavares in free agency, but struck out and moved on to extending key pieces in Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane. He wanted a “difference-maker” and certainly achieved that goal in acquiring the 28-year-old Karlsson.

San Jose’s blue line will now feature Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, a very solid trio, while their top power play unit will be something to watch with the newly-added Swede.

“It’s extremely rare that players of this caliber become available,” said Wilson. “The word ‘elite’ is often thrown around casually but Erik’s skillset and abilities fit that description like few other players in today’s game.”

Karlsson, who was the No. 15 overall selection in the 2008 NHL draft, spent nine years with the Senators, suiting up for 627 games, scoring 126 goals and recording 518 points. He quickly developed into an all-around blue liner, capable of hitting double digits in goals and being strong defensively. His play would help earn him two Norris Trophies and second-place finishes in 2016 and 2017.

Since 2013, Karlsson is one of only three defensemen — Burns and P.K. Subban being the others — to record at least 300 points. Karlsson is third in goals (89) over that stretch with Burns leading the way (116) comfortably.

The key now for Wilson and the Sharks is to sign Karlsson to an extension. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and will command a max deal, whether he reaches UFA status or not. The Sharks are perennial contenders out west and this move certainly keeps them in the conversation for 2018-19 in a crowded field of Western Conference field favorites.

[Karlsson trade gives Sharks NHL’s most explosive defense]

For the Senators, the trade is one of the final parts of the complete teardown of a roster that was a goal away from reaching the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. After moving Karlsson and dealing Mike Hoffman, the big pieces that remain are Bobby Ryan, who still has four years left carrying a $7.25M cap hit; Mark Stone, who signed a one-year, $7.35M deal over the summer; and Matt Duchene, who was acquired last October and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Goaltender Craig Anderson probably could be had if the right offer came along.

It’s all about stockpiling assets to go with a prospect cupboard that features Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, Logan Brown, Colin White and Alex Formenton. (And let’s not forget Ottawa’s 2019 first-rounder belongs to the Colorado Avalanche.)

How deep are the Senators entrenched in this rebuild? The headline for the trade press release reads: “Ottawa Senators complete most important trade in rebuild” and the messaging inside keeps on the theme that the future is bright — they just need to keep dealing away their best players.

“This is the right moment for us to rebuild our team, and shape our future with a faster, younger and more competitive team on the ice,” says Senators GM Pierre Dorion in a statement. “We are going to build a culture of consistency which will allow this team to sustain better performance over the long term.”

If you’re wondering, the Sharks visit Ottawa on Saturday, Dec. 1.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Erik Karlsson picks up puck after potential last home game as a Senator (video)

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If Monday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets was the last time Erik Karlsson will suit up for the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre, he’ll have something to remember the occasion.

Jets forward Adam Lowry shot the puck into the empty net at the end of the game in a 6-5 loss for the Senators. After the final buzzer, Karlsson skated over to the net, fished the puck out of it, and put it into his hockey pants, perhaps foreshadowing an end of an era in Canada’s capital for the two-time Norris Trophy winner.

Karlsson’s future has been the focus of intense speculation for much of the season, and the thought is he will depart Ottawa at some point this offseason after a deal at the trade deadline didn’t come to fruition.

The 27-year-old has one year remaining on his contract.

Karlsson had three assists in the game, eclipsing the 60-point mark for the fifth straight season.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Eugene Melnyk writes to fans, commits to keeping Senators in Ottawa

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If you’re still listening, Ottawa Senators fans, your owner has a message for you.

Eugene Melnyk wants you to know that things are going to change, that the future looks better than the grim picture Melnyk is responsible for painting.

Senators fans will remember that just a few months ago, it was the same Melnyk writing fans on Thursday that threatened to move the team if disaster struck.

This season for Ottawa has been nothing short of a disaster, but Melnyk was singing a different tune in a letter sent out to season ticket holders and fans on Thursday.

“When I came on board, the Ottawa Senators were in deep financial trouble,” Melnyk wrote. “Together, with your support, we brought this team back to life and we have had Canada’s most successful NHL on-ice performance over the past 15 years. Backed by Ottawa fans and the entire community, I have demonstrated my commitment to giving you the best possible team over and over again. Today, I am just as committed to the Ottawa Senators and to keeping them in the City of Ottawa, as I was in 2003.”

The letter is a lot of what you’d expect from an owner of a struggling team trying to make sure season ticket renewals go as smoothly as possible for a team stuck in 29th place in the NHL, just months removed from being a goal away from the Stanley Cup Finals.

Melnyk reminded fans that the team wasn’t far away from competing for hockey’s holy grail. He went into roster changes at the trade deadline, plans to improve the fan experience and getting the Senators back to winning ways.

“This has been a disappointing season for our team,” Melnyk said in the letter. “Our place in the standings speaks for itself. Trust me, no one is more aware of this — and more frustrated by it — than I am.”

Maybe.

Let’s remember, however, that Senators fans are willing to not only shell out their hard-earned money to watch the atrocity play out on the ice, they’re also willing to spend thousands to erect a billboard showing their immense frustration for Melnyk.

The letter’s biggest omission, however, is the lack of Erik Karlsson‘s name.

The team’s best player, one of the league’s top defenseman, and a player that’s been so horribly mismanaged by the club, to the horror of its fans, is nowhere to be found in Melnyk’s thoughts to his fans.

That’s rough.

The little hope that Senators fans have left remaining is planted in Karlsson’s future. Melnyk failing to commit to repairing that relationship and trying to re-sign a player that is nothing short of a generational talent makes everything else seem superficial.

Time will tell if Melnyk can restore the Senators from being the league’s laughingstock.

But it’s hard not to imagine that fans wouldn’t have rather read a letter from Melnyk that apologized for the shambles it’s currently in; a letter that told the truth to fans, that he has failed the organization, its players, and its dedicated fanbase.

Ottawa deserves that, at the very least.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

No ‘significant hockey deal’ keeps Erik Karlsson a Senator

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The 2018 NHL trade deadline has passed and Erik Karlsson is still a member of the Ottawa Senators. Why was general manager Pierre Dorion unable to consummate deal to trade away his captain for a bounty? There simply wasn’t a good enough offer out there

“It would take a special hockey deal to move Erik Karlsson,” Dorion told reporters Monday. “Today, we didn’t feel that that was something on the table. I always listen. I had offers on Erik Karlsson no one knew about over the course of the summer.”

Karlsson’s contract doesn’t expire until after the 2018-19 NHL season, so a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning or Vegas Golden Knights — who were rumored to be heavily involved in discussions on the Senators defenseman — could have acquired the two-time Norris Trophy winner for a pair of playoff runs. But whatever packages that were discussed with Dorion weren’t to his liking, so now this trade gets pushed the summer, which should make the June draft in Dallas very interesting.

[Lightning trade for Ryan McDonagh, not Karlsson]

Dorion said that he believes Karlsson wants to be a Senator “for life” and if the he reaches July 1 still a member of the team, a contract extension will be offered. But with teams phoning since the summer gauging what it would take to land the superstar blue liner, surely seeds have been planted for a future trade. You also can’t rule out Karlsson’s feelings on the situation. There will be a time, if it hasn’t happened already, where the question will be asked if he wants to stay in Ottawa and then the GM will have to make his move. He does possess a 10-team no-trade list. How much does that expand in the off-season?

A summer trade benefits Dorion and the Senators much more than a trade deadline deal. We’ll know what the salary cap ceiling is for 2018-19 and the other 30 teams will have a better idea of what their roster looks like going forward. It’s already a mess in Ottawa, so what’s the big deal with a few more uncomfortable weeks?

“We always have to look at our roster. We’re in 29th place. Do we feel we have a team that’s of 29th place calibre? Probably not,” Dorion said. “But in every situation when we’re evaluating ourselves, we have to listen on every offer from teams. We did not actively shop Erik Karlsson. We did not. But when a player of his calibre is rumored to be on the market or when a team is struggling like ourselves, teams are going to inquire about him and we have to listen. We have to do what’s best for this organization in the short-, medium- and long-term. I don’t think we would be doing our job if we wouldn’t be at least listening on offers.”

Nine months ago the Senators were a goal away from representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. Now they’re in total rebuild mode, with Karlsson likely heading out the door and Mike Hoffman and others likely joining him in the summer. Dorion said he took calls on every single player on the roster and owner Eugene Melnyk told him to make the best “hockey deals” for the team. None of those deals were out there today, but they certainly will be there in the off-season, with Karlsson being the biggest prize.

So what was Dorion looking for in a potential Karlsson trade? A haul.

“Many pieces… When you’re going to trade away a generational defenseman, I think you’re gonna make sure that your return can be very good,” he said. “It would have to be a significant hockey deal.”

MORE: PHT’s 2018 Trade Deadline Tracker.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.