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After watching the Matt Duchene saga hang over the Colorado Avalanche last year, Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion clearly did not want to enter his season with his disgruntled star still on the roster. As a result of that desire to move on and push reset on an organization plagued by repeated missteps, superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson was traded today to the San Jose Sharks.
Normally, a trade between teams out of Colorado’s division and not involving them would just be fun fodder for dissecting the deal but this one actually has a chance to have a significant impact on the Avalanche.
Overall, the deal sees Karlsson and prospect Francis Perron heading to San Jose in exchange for Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, and three conditional draft picks. In other words, this is a fantastic deal for Colorado. Thanks to the haul Joe Sakic received in exchange for Matt Duchene, Colorado owns Ottawa’s 2019 first round selection.
After trading Karlsson for pieces that are predominatly “futures” pieces, Colorado has to be loving the situation they’re in as Ottawa continues to dismantle a team that was just a goal from the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of 2017.
DeMelo will help on the right side of Ottawa’s defense but there’s simply no replacing an elite talent such as Karlsson. Long-time second-pairing defenseman Cody Ceci now becomes Ottawa’s de facto top defenseman despite a career’s worth of results showing his role on a second pairing was too much for him to handle. As he becomes their top guy, it’s hard to imagine he suddenly produces even average results in terms of shot share. Even if he pairs with blue-chip youngster Thomas Chabot, Ceci’s presence on that pairing should be enough to be an anchor on those results.
Moving beyond Ceci’s promotion, DeMelo will slide in and compete with Chris Wideman to fill Ceci’s vacated role. DeMelo is a 25-year-old coming off a 20-point season, which is perfectly respectable but not a player who is going to be a real impact guy long-term. He’s a depth defenseman on a good team, such as he was with the Sharks, but with the Senators he could find himself in a bigger role than he’s equipped to handle.
That’s going to be a very common theme throughout Ottawa’s overmatched roster. Chris Tierney is coming off a career-high 40-point season and really had a solid season in the San Jose top nine. He’s going to need to step that up several notches, however, if he’s going to provide any kind of decent value to the Sens. He’s going from playing on a line with Mikkel Boedker and Timo Meier to potentially playing on a line with…Mikkel Boedker, who was acquired by Ottawa in the Mike Hoffman fiasco earlier this summer.
The real jewels of this trade are the conditional picks, which include a first round selection in 2019 or 2020, and Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris. Balcers had a 48-point season in the AHL last year and is a comparable prospect to Vladislav Kamenev. Norris was selected with the Sharks’ first-round pick in 2017 and is returning to the University of Michigan for his sophomore season. He’s a good center prospect and similar to Colorado’s Shane Bowers.
What this deal is lacking for Ottawa that really has a chance to make it something special for Colorado is impact players in the NHL this season. Norris, Balcers, and whoever the draft picks eventually become could be great players down the road but they won’t be providing much of anything of value to the NHL team this year.
One of the concerns I had about Ottawa outperforming their putrid preseason projections was the presence of a Hall of Fame-caliber superstar in a contract year. If there’s one thing pro sports constantly reinforces, it’s that money talks and with Karlsson and their top two forwards, Mark Stone and Matt Duchene, all facing unrestricted free agency this year, they could have combined for some magic and carried Ottawa to a respectable finish.
With Karlsson now gone and certainly not adequately replaced, they’re left hoping Duchene and Stone can do something. We’ve seen in Colorado time and time again how Duchene was unable to elevate his game and carry a mediocre team. Stone is a fine player but wingers who aren’t truly elite don’t ever carry their teams anywhere. With the rest of that roster, Ottawa’s outlook on this season got significantly worse today. This is now solidly a bottom-five team in the NHL alongside the likes of Vancouver and Detroit.
The 2019 NHL Draft appears to be loaded with a handful of intriguing forward prospects but right now American Jack Hughes leads the race to be the top pick next summer. Ottawa’s mismanagement of their organization has accidentally opened the door for the Avalanche to start dreaming of a dynasty.
Even with an entire season to play, Colorado took a significant step towards securing a special player today and they didn’t even have to pick up the phone.