The Ottawa Senators are taking offers on superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson, but a look at two options from Dallas highlights the perils of such a trade – for the Sens and Stars.
Chris Stevenson and Sean Shapiro of The Athletic have been following the story from both ends and it seems like there’s fire near all that smoke. According to Stevenson, Ottawa is circling around defenseman Miro Heiskanen, while Dallas would prefer to give up fellow Finnish blueliner Julius Honka.
Here’s the thing: If I’m Dallas, I don’t trade Heiskanen for Karlsson. But if I’m Ottawa, I don’t accept Honka as the main return. This is a transaction fraught with peril and if it doesn’t end up happening, it may be for the best.
First, Heiskanen is one of the best prospects in hockey right now. He has been playing with Helsinki’s IFK in Finland’s top league (the Liiga) and has been dominant. I happened to be interviewing HIFK sports manager Tobias Salmelainen recently and here’s how he described Heiskanen’s 2017-18 campaign:
“He was the best defenseman in the league and one of the best in Europe,” Salmelainen said. “He makes the game look easy. His IQ is off the charts and his skating is elite. He was our most important player.”
And keep in mind, we’re talking about a teenaged defenseman here. But that’s Heiskanen. He’s exactly what you want in a modern blueliner and I believe he’ll have an impact in Dallas this season, assuming the Stars hang on to him.
Which they should. I know, I know it’s Erik Karlsson. But dude lost a chunk of his ankle last summer! It’s not coming back! (unless medical science..no, it’s still a negative) Put Karlsson on the Stars and yes, they become a serious contender in the West, adding to an already potent attack and giving John Klingberg some tantalizing cover on the back end. But they’re no Stanley Cup shoo-in. With Winnipeg and Nashville around, the Stars aren’t even guaranteed to win the Central, especially if Karlsson’s effectiveness is limited (he was not the same EK we were used to this past season. Was it the bad team around him? The whole off-ice circus that is Ottawa? Discuss amongst yourselves).
On the other hand, Honka has struggled to make an impact in Dallas, despite his pedigree as a first-round pick. You’d think his mobility and offensive chops would be perfect for today’s game, but he wasn’t able to break through under coaches Lindy Ruff or Ken Hitchcock. Now Jim Montgomery is running the bench, so Honka gets another chance to make a first impression.
Now, if you’re Ottawa, you probably want a little more of a sure thing if you’re giving up the greatest talent in franchise history and one of the best blueliners of his generation. Who knows how good Karlsson could be on Dallas? And sure, the Senators have the weaker hand in this negotiation because the Stars know Karlsson isn’t happy with Ottawa, but you need at least a high-end prospect to kick off the return. And yes, I’m assuming Ottawa also gets a first-rounder back in the deal, at the least. I don’t care if Karlsson is only under contract for one more year: if he gets traded, the new team would have something in place.
Ottawa is in flames right now. If Karlsson is dealt, it has to be a better result than the Mike Hoffman double-trade disaster. Dallas is putting together a core that must win now, but has a potential star in Heiskanen who will cost a fraction of what Karlsson does under the salary cap next year. Is there a match here, or does someone get burned? Ah, the fun of summer trade talk.