Erik Karlsson Trade: What It Means for Both Teams

After 18 months of speculation, Erik Karlsson has been traded from the Ottawa Senators. The captain was traded to the San Jose Sharks, along with Francis Perron in exchange for Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, a first-round draft pick in either 2019 or 2020, a second-round pick in 2020 and two conditional draft picks.

Related: Senators Trade Karlsson to Sharks

General manager Pierre Dorion addressed the media, trying to explain the Senators reasoning behind the trade. “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. We are going to build a culture of consistency which will allow this team to sustain better performance over the long term.”

Even through the whirlwind of rumours over the past year and a half, the nine-year veteran was still shocked to be traded from the only team he’s known. “I don’t think that I’ve ever in my wildest imagination thought that I would ever leave this place.”

He continued, “It’s a very emotional and sad day for me and my family. It’s an unfortunate part of the business.”

This trade will be a defining moment in the Senators for years to come and will be remembered as one of the first steps in the rebuild. Here is the full early analysis of what both teams acquired and how it will help each team.

The Sharks Acquisitions

Erik Karlsson

The name of the trade, this transition was all about Erik Karlsson. The Sharks have been long connected to the Swedish defenseman and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was finally able to make it happen. The Sharks are already a perennial playoff team who could potentially contend for the Stanley Cup, and Karlsson solidifies them as a Cup contender.

The Sharks defensive corps already had Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Adding Karlsson immediately pushes them into the best-defence-in-the-NHL conversation (sorry, Nashville), and should be the highest scoring defence in the league as well. During his time in Ottawa, Karlsson had 518 points in 627 games. Burns currently has 566 points in his 617 NHL games. Watch out for the San Jose back-end.

Erik Karlsson Ottawa Senators San Jose Sharks
Erik Karlsson is headed to California (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Karlsson is, if not the best, a very close second-best player in Ottawa Senators history. It’s a title he would have taken over from long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson if given more time in the nation’s capital. Dorion and team owner Eugene Melnyk sat down and discussed the future of the team, deciding that their captain was likely not a part of that future.

Francis Perron

The 190th pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Francis Perron was a pick that never panned out for the Senators. However, he looked extremely promising in the QMJHL for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. In his final year there, the Laval, Quebec native put up 108 points in 62 games, adding 33 points in 18 playoff games that year. He won the MVP for both the regular season and the playoffs that year.

His scoring touch hasn’t transitioned into the AHL though, scoring 41 points over his first two seasons. Coming into the AHL at only 165 pounds, it could simply be that Perron hasn’t grown enough to come into his own at the professional level. Perhaps the move can help him find the back of the net more and he can prove himself in San Jose.

Additions for the Senators

Chris Tierney

The biggest name coming back to Ottawa is Chris Tierney. The centreman was drafted 55th overall in the second round of the 2012 NHL Draft by San Jose. Tierney re-signed with the Sharks earlier this summer to a two-year $5,875,000 deal before being dealt just two months later.

Chris Tierney San Jose Sharks Ottawa Senators
Chris Tierney has the potential to be an impact player on the Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

A four-year NHL veteran, the Keswick, Ontario native is coming off of his best season, scoring 17 goals and collecting 40 points for the first time in his career. He’s played 284 games, all for the Sharks and has 104 points and also played in 40 playoff games.

Tierney is a solid addition, likely a third-line centreman now that Jean-Gabriel Pageau could be out for 5-6 months. He brings experience and leadership to the team and the young players that will be coming up through the system in Ottawa.

Dylan DeMelo

Just like Tierney, Dylan DeMelo was re-signed by the Sharks back in July to a two-year, $1.8 million deal. He played a career-high 63 games last year, collecting 20 points – all assists. Over parts of three seasons, DeMelo has played in 133 games and scored 3 goals and 29 helpers.

DeMelo has a strong chance to make the opening night line-up for the Senators. With Karlsson opening up a spot on the back-end, there will be a fight for that hole. The 25-year-old will have to battle with Ben Harpur and Christian Wolanin among others for a spot on the full-time lineup, but his experience should help.

The 179th overall pick in 2011, DeMelo is seen as a puck-moving defenseman who isn’t afraid to jump up into the play. The style could fit the Senators style this season as a young, fast team.

Josh Norris

Josh Norris may be one of the most important pieces coming back to Ottawa. Norris was San Jose’s 19th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old is set to play for the University of Michigan, his second year on the team. During his first season, Norris played in 37 games, collecting 23 points.

Josh Norris, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks
Josh Norris could be the future number one centre for the Senators (courtesy United States Hockey League)

The best news for Senators fans is that Norris has been compared to Sharks star Logan Couture based on his athleticism. The Oxford, Michigan player has the build for the NHL, at 6-foot, 189 pounds. He prides himself on playing in all three zones, saying, “I play with a lot of speed, a lot of skill. I think I can give you a little bit of everything, in a power play, penalty kill, faceoffs, and I chip in offensively.”

Norris is also best friends with 2018 fourth-overall pick Brady Tkachuk. In fact, the two played together in the 2018 World Junior Championship. Josh Norris could be the future number one centre for the Senators with Tkachuk on his wing.

Rudolfs Balcers

He didn’t headline this trade, but he might have the best name in it. Rudolfs Balcers was the Sharks fifth-round pick in 2015. The Latvian played last year for the San Jose Barracuda, collecting 48 points in 67 games. The year before he put up 77 points for the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL.

The 21-year-old is a skilled player who could see some NHL action this season, but will likely spend the majority of the year with the Belleville Senators in the AHL. His scoring ability shows promise though, a good sign for the Senators.

The Draft Picks

It has been long-known that the Senators wanted a first-round pick in 2019 to replace the one sent to Colorado in the Matt Duchene trade. They didn’t quite get that in this trade though, as San Jose doesn’t really have a pick in the first round for 2019 after bringing the other EK – Evander Kane – to California.

The picks they did get will be interesting though. The second-round pick in 2020 is the only one set so far, but since the Sharks have two picks (theirs and the Florida Panthers selection), the higher pick goes to Ottawa. The 2019 or 2020 first-round pick is dependent on how the Sharks do this year. Their 2019 first-round pick was already conditionally traded to the Buffalo Sabres in the Evander Kane trade. If San Jose doesn’t make the playoffs this year, the 2019 pick goes to Ottawa. If they do, it goes to the Sabres and the Senators gets a 2020 first-round pick.

The 2021 conditional second-round pick becomes a reality if Karlsson re-signs in San Jose, and that pick becomes a 2021 first-rounder if the Sharks make the Stanley Cup Final in 2019. The final conditional first-round pick will become a reality no later than 2022 if Karlsson is on a reserve list of an Eastern Conference team during 2018-19. Basically, if Karlsson is traded back to the East this season, the Sens get another first-round pick.

Early Winners and Losers of the Trade

Winner: Doug Wilson

Ottawa Senators San Jose Sharks
Doug Wilson is an early winner in the Karlsson trade (Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE)

Doug Wilson is going for it. On a team with Logan Couture, Joe Thorton, Evander Kane, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones, Wilson went out and added a two-time Norris winner in Karlsson. Earlier in the offseason, the San Jose general manager made a push to land free agent John Tavares and was on the losing side, with Tavares signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The next-biggest name available this summer? Erik Karlsson. Wilson recognizes that his group has a two or maybe three-year window to win the Stanley Cup and he needed to go for it. Karlsson gives them that chance, adding one of the highest-scoring defensemen year after year onto an already stellar defence, San Jose knows the time is now.

On top of landing one of the biggest names in the league, he did so without losing too many players off of his current roster. Tierney is the only consistent player, with DeMelo seeing some time, but that is very impressive for landing a player of Karlsson’s calibre to not break up your core team. He also has a chance to keep two of his picks, depending on where Karlsson’s future takes him.

This trade is a big win for Wilson, the Sharks and the San Jose fanbase. They’re all in this year. They are in a division that added Max Pacioretty, James Neal and Ilya Kovalchuk, and yet they went out and got one of the best defensemen in the NHL.

Loser: Pierre Dorion

There was a very slim chance that Pierre Dorion would be able to trade Erik Karlsson and be an early winner in the trade. Dorion loses a superstar for one depth roster player, three prospects, two picks and the potential for one more pick. It could pay off in the long run, but for now, he’s not on top of this one.

Pierre Dorion Ottawa Senators 2015
Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

What’s worse is that the Senators already have a rocky relationship with its fanbase. The fans want the owner out and the owner wants fans to show up to games. It seems like neither one of those is going to happen at this point, especially after this trade. Karlsson is a fan favourite on and off the ice – he gave back to the community and gave the city a true superstar. After chasing its last two captains out of the city, though, it seemed like only a matter of time before Karlsson followed the path of Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza.

The Ottawa Senators were already projected to finish near the bottom of the NHL this year. This should confirm that. This trade may look great in five years for the Senators, but right now the return Dorion got for his star player seems underwhelming.

Winner: Erik Karlsson

Sure, Karlsson repeatedly said he wanted to stay and seemed genuinely upset at being traded from the only team he’s ever known. But let’s face it, Karlsson is going to a Stanley Cup contender. He has a chance to play with another Norris winning defenseman and some high-end talent. At only 28 years old, Karlsson has lots left in the tank and San Jose gets that to its advantage.

Erik Karlsson Ottawa Senators San Jose Sharks
Is the best yet to come for Karlsson? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On the Sharks, Karlsson is playing with elite talent. His current career highs came in the 2015-16 season with 82 points in 82 games. With Burns or Vlasic next to him, it’s not hard to imagine Karlsson passing those totals this year in what could be a new career year for the defenseman.

Finally, with this saga finally over after the year and a half of rumours, the Karlsson drama is over. On top of that, the drama surrounding the Senators can be over for him as well. The trade gives the former Ottawa captain a fresh start, in a new country at that, to focus on the main goal in hockey – winning the Stanley Cup.