Flyers’ Free Agency Targets: Karlsson & Karlsson

The Philadelphia Flyers would be best served this offseason by targeting Karlsson, or perhaps Karlsson. On second thought, they should go after both of them. I’m talking, of course, about Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks, and William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Flyers are getting a close look at both of these potential free agents while they battle against each other in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The addition of these two talented players would fill major holes for the Flyers at center and on defense.

Acquiring both will be a long shot, and may require the Flyers to overpay a bit, but the results, I believe, would be well worth the risk. Perhaps the only person who wouldn’t be so fond of the additions would be Flyers’ play-by-play commentator Jim Jackson, but he’d just have to live with it.

William Karlsson, Center, RFA

William Karlsson, also known as “Wild Bill,” became a member of the Golden Knights when he was selected from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the expansion draft. Karlsson has been a major driver in the early success of the Golden Knights franchise, centering their top line and playing key roles on both special teams units.

William Karlsson
William Karlsson, of there Vegas Golden Knights, will be a restricted free agent this summer. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

Karlsson has also shown that he can produce when it matters most, posting 15 points in 20 playoff games, including seven goals, during the Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.

Karlsson has produced 134 points in 164 regular season games over the past two seasons, including a whopping 67 goals, 43 of which came in the 2017-18 season. In Philadelphia he would have the chance to be even more productive, considering incumbent top-line center Sean Couturier would handle the toughest matchups, freeing up Karlsson to take advantage of lesser competition.

The only problem with the Flyers’ pursuit of Karlsson? He is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason, meaning a number of things would have to happen for the Flyers to land him. First and foremost, the Flyers would have to extend an offer sheet to the 26-year-old center, he would also have to sign said offer sheet.

The Golden Knights would then have the opportunity to match that offer sheet and retain Karlsson’s services. This maneuver would be especially tricky for the Flyers to pull off considering the offer sheet would have to be expensive enough to not only entice Karlsson, but also enough to make the Golden Knights leery of matching it.

The Flyers also have to make sure the cap hit won’t hamstring them in future years. It will be a difficult balancing act, but a doable one. An offer in the range of $7-8 million average annual value (AAV) could be enough to get it done, any higher and the Flyers risk financial flexibility in the future. A second line of Oskar Lindblom and Jakub Voracek flanking Karlsson has the potential to be a very dangerous unit.

Erik Karlsson, Defenseman, UFA

The potential acquisition of Erik Karlsson wouldn’t be quite as tricky as acquiring William, but would be difficult nonetheless. Karlsson will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, unless he signs a contract extension with the Sharks at the conclusion of their playoff run.

Should he hit free agency, the Flyers would simply have to convince Karlsson to sign in Philadelphia. Easier said than done, but the Flyers have the cap space to throw the bank at Karlsson, and he’d be worth every penny of it.

Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

Karlsson, the 28-year-old former captain of the Ottawa Senators, is perhaps the most dynamic defenseman of his generation, scoring 563 points in 680 career games thus far. The two-time Norris Trophy winner would form a formidable top-pair on defense next to Ivan Provorov and would also quarterback the top power play unit.

Landing Karlsson will most likely cost north of $10 million AAV, and could land in the $11-12 million AAV range on a seven-year deal. Expensive, yes, but that’s what it takes to acquire a truly elite, franchise-altering player like Karlsson.

Related: Sharks’ Biggest Priority Should Be Re-Signing Karlsson

Best of Both Worlds

The additions of the Karlssons would be the most effective way to fill both of the Flyers’ biggest roster holes. In William, the Flyers would gain a strong two-way center with playoff pedigree who can relieve pressure from Nolan Patrick, chip in 20-30 goals a year, and provide solid penalty-kill minutes. In Erik, the Flyers would gain not only a veteran defenseman, but a once-in-a-lifetime, generational talent with the ability to play at a point-per-game pace from the back end.

If the Flyers have the opportunity to land both of these big fish, they shouldn’t hesitate to do so. Double the Karlsson, double the fun.