At the time, the San Jose Sharks seemed to have fleeced the Ottawa Senators out of Erik Karlsson in what was widely considered to be a terrible trade for the Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. The trade came at a time of turmoil for the Ottawa Senators franchise and the package that the Senators received for Karlsson was deemed by fans as a fireable offence for their general manager. After two seasons with the Sharks, now is the perfect time to look back at just how “bad” the Erik Karlsson trade was.
Before I start to check in on each of the pieces that the Senators acquired in the trade, first, let us go check out how Karlsson has fared in his tenure with the Sharks.
Since moving to San Jose, Erik Karlsson has struggled to stay healthy. Injuries have caused him to miss quite a few games over the past two seasons. Despite the injuries that he has sustained, Karlsson’s’ offensive game has been everything that the Sharks had hoped it would be when they acquired him. Last season, during the Sharks deep postseason run, the Swedish defender tied Brent Burns for second place in team scoring with 16 points in 19 games.
Karlsson has always been strong offensive during the postseason. He owns a career 0.79 PPG% during the playoffs. Unfortunately for Karlsson and the Sharks, they were ultimately defeated in the Semi-Finals last year against the St. Louis Blues who went on to win the Stanley Cup. Last season was San Jose’s best chance to win the Stanley Cup while they were at the height of their powers. This year, they failed to reach the 24-team playoff by-in rounds and will have some big decisions to make this offseason.
Many people forget that Erik Karlsson was not the only asset that the Senators shipped to California. Although not as highly coveted as Erik Karlsson, the Sharks also received forward Francis Perron in the deal. Perron is an AHL’er who has yet to make his NHL debut, but he has been a solid addition to the Sharks minor league affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda.
The worst part about the San Jose Sharks not making the playoffs this year lies with their first-round draft pick. Moving on to revisiting the Senators haul, they received in the trade one of the best parts of the trade was a slight condition that Pierre Dorion made. The Condition stated that if the Sharks made the playoffs in 2019, then the first-round pick that the Sharks would send over to Ottawa would be deferred until 2020.
At the time Sharks, GM Doug Wilson and likely Pierre Dorion did not anticipate the Sharks to finish as low in the standings as they eventually did. This simple condition may be what makes the Karlsson trade a big win for Ottawa as it accelerates their rebuild and could potentially gift them a franchise defining player. As it stands right now, Ottawa has the best odds to win the second and third overall selection for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
With their own first-round pick and the Sharks pick, the Senators could Draft two-franchise defining players and may even move up to the first overall selection. In a draft as deep as 2020, the Sharks are really wishing that they could go back in time and alter that one little clause that deferred the pick they gave to Ottawa to 2020 instead of 2019.
The next items on the list to revisit are the pair of NHL’ers that the Senators received in their package for their former captain. The Sharks shipped defensemen Dylan DeMelo and forward Chris Tierney to Canada’s capital. DeMelo spent one full season with the Senators after moving to Ottawa where he proved to be a reliable presence on the rebuilding Senators blue-line. His leadership was relied on at times, however, due to his expiring contract at the end of the season, the Senators shipped him off to the Winnipeg Jets for a third-round pick for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
Tierney, on the other hand, has been more impactful for the rebuilding Senators. In his first season with his new club, Tierney had a career year, recording 48 points in 81 games and was still only 24-years-old. Now as a 25-year-old, Tierney had another solid season, recording 37 points in 71 games and is set to earn a contract extension from the Senators as he will be an RFA this offseason.
Tierney has show that he is able to be a valuable player for the rebuilding Senators and has proven his worth. At only 25-years-old, Tierney could stay with the Senators throughout their rebuild and help guide some of the younger players. The Senators should be able to sign him to a rather inexpensive contract between $3M-$3.8M. Next season, while the Senators continue to bring up their young prospects and get stronger, Tierney could be in for another career year.
The player who I always called the hidden gem of the Erik Karlsson trade is Latvian winger Rudolfs Balcers. Balcers has had a great career in the AHL so far and has succeeded at every level that he has played at. Balcers has bounced around between the NHL and AHL since he was acquired by the Ottawa Senators.
He has been impressive in his limited chances in the NHL, but has yet to be given a full time NHL chance. This season, Balcers spent just 15 games with the Senators in the NHL and recorded three points while playing an average of just 12:08 of ice time a game. The season before, Balcers had a solid rookie campaign, recording 14 points in 36 games with Ottawa.
What Balcers needs is some more ice-time and more of a chance in the big leagues in order to prove his worth to management. If all goes to plan, Balcers could be a top-nine player for the Senators in the next year or two and could hopefully cement himself as a regular part of the Senators roster.
Every time an NHL trade features a star such as Erik Karlsson, there is always a top prospect that gets added to the deal. In the case of the Karlsson trade, the top prospect that Ottawa received was left-handed shooter and centreman Josh Norris. Norris was appealing to the Senators for multiple reasons, one of which being his strong relationship and chemistry with former teammate Brady Tkachuk.
While some may have been skeptical about Norris’ potential at the highest levels, he certainly silenced the doubters, shutting down everyone who passed judgement this season. As a rookie in the AHL this year, Norris absolutely dominated and was named the AHL’s rookie of the year. He did so scoring 31 goals and 61 points in just 56 games. Norris should be ready for the NHL next season and could have a future on the top-six alongside good friend Brady Tkachuk.
The next asset that will come from this trade is a second-round pick in 2021. Due to the Sharks re-signing Karlsson after his contract expired a year into his Sharks tenure, the Senators receive in return a second-round pick next year as compensation. Had the Sharks reached the Stanley Cup Final last year, the Sharks would have owed the Senators a first-round pick in 2021.
Once you really look at all the details of the deal, the trade was solid for both teams. San Jose got the elite defensemen they were looking for, although things would be better had Karlsson not suffered multiple injuries. The Senators needed to get rid of Karlsson and while the deal may have seemed extremely underwhelming at the time, the assets that they acquired, most notably Josh Norris, and what as of now, is expected to be the third overall pick in the upcoming draft, are major additions to the Senators rebuild and could prove to be cornerstones for Ottawa for years to come. Chris Tierney as well has been a reliable addition to the Senators roster and could find himself having a big future with the franchise.
Overall, there is a lesson to be learned here. Stars do not always fetch returns that look amazing at the time, especially when there are a lot of picks and prospects involved. What is important, however, is to be mindful and not too quick to judge a return so early in a trade of this magnitude. Obviously, nothing is set in stone when it comes to players or prospects panning out as expected.
For all we know, Norris will not be an NHL player and the player the Senators draft picks will all be busts. You never know exactly what is going to happen and to that end, only time will tell.
Keep an eye out in the next few years for my follow-up article, revisiting revisiting the Erik Karlsson trade.