Erik Karlsson isn’t going to be with the Ottawa Senators for long. He was rumored to be on his way out at the deadline, but that never happened. Now all eyes are on the draft, when teams have significantly more cap room to work with. As always, the Rangers are always mentioned with big ticket names, and with a newly stocked system they have the tools to pull it off.
But is that the right move for this team right now? It could be if they are looking for a fast turnaround on this rebuild. Karlsson is a one of a kind player, an elite defenseman who can put up 80 points in a league where 50 is considered fantastic for a blue liner. That said, Karlsson might not be the route the Rangers want to go. Let’s go into three reasons why.
1. The Cost (trade)
Karlsso has one year remaining on this deal, so he’s not going to be a free agent signing. He’s going to be acquired via trade, and it’s going to cost a boatload. Even if he is packaged with Bobby Ryan (four years at $7.25 million remaining), the cost is going to be up there because it’s Erik Freaking Karlsson.
Those three first round picks? Expect to part with a pair of them, especially if you don’t want to part with more than one of the top prospects in the organization right now. That prospect depth? You’re parting with a young top prospect and probably one of the mid-high ceiling guys just acquired at the deadline.
The cost might be prohibitive for a Rangers team that literally sent a letter to fans saying they are rebuilding.
2. The cost (salary)
Even if Ryan isn’t included in the deal, which is a huge cap hit to take on, Karlsson’s deal is expiring. He will be 28 when hitting free agency. He’s going to get multiple dump trucks full of money backed into his driveway. Expect $10 million a year. For a LONG time.
But what about the likely scenario where Marc Staal is included in the deal to even it out? That doesn’t even come close. The Rangers would be paying $15+ million on Karlsson and Kevin Shattenkirk. All this time we spent worrying about cap flexibility would be wasted.
Ok, I get it. Karlsson/Shattenkirk aren’t Girardi/Staal, and you can make the argument that Shattenkirk’s deal would expire before the key young kids would need theoretical large raises. But do you really want to tie that much money into two players? Look at what happened in Chicago.
3. The timing
Karlsson is a phenomenal player, I can’t stress that enough. But if the Rangers can’t afford to keep him after his one year remaining, then this isn’t the right time for him. They aren’t winning next year, and acquiring Karlsson is a win-now move.
Even if they can retain him, how many years will it be before the rest of the team can compete? If Filip Chytil and Pavel Buchnevich can develop into the elite players we all hope they might be, and maybe Lias Andersson projects out to be better than his scouting reports, then maybe? That is, of course, they aren’t included in the trade (see point 1).
The best time might be if/when he hits free agency, after another year of rebuild when the trade cost is nonexistent.
There are so many reasons to trade for Karlsson, and I would certainly love to see him on Broadway. But when it comes to the big picture, I’m not sure it’s the right fit at the right time. And if it’s not the right fit at the right time, then it’s the wrong fit, as painful as it sounds.