Erik Karlsson for Connor Murphy, Chad Krys and a 2018 first-round pick (from Nashville)
This is a lot in return for a one-year rental on Karlsson, but the idea would have to be that the ‘Hawks are going to also extend Karlsson once the trade goes through. Currently, P.K. Subban has the highest contract for a defenseman in the NHL at $9 million AAV.
If the ‘Hawks offered an extension for a term of seven years and $10 million AAV, it could be something Karlsson would be willing to agree to. That contract would be good until Karlsson was 36, which is getting up higher in age, but not always the end of a defenseman’s career.
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Meanwhile, the ‘Hawks would be shedding $3.85 million a year on Murphy being sent to Ottawa and would need to come up with the remaining $6.15 million. With the cap set to increase, there will be some cap room there (somewhere between $5 and $9 million), and the team could also look at trading Marian Hossa’s contract or moving a player like Artem Anisimov for a much smaller contract or draft picks.
Meanwhile, on the Ottawa end, the Senators could see the trade as an opportunity to gain young defensive talent in Murphy and Krys, as well as a late first-round pick (acquired from the Predators in the Ryan Hartman trade) to build for the future. If Karlsson is not going to re-sign with them, this would at least be a solid return for a team that will ultimately lose its star defenseman.
The ‘Hawks would then have a blue line that includes Karlsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Gustav Forsling, Jan Rutta, Erik Gustafson and Jordan Oesterle. While that is still a top-heavy group and some very big contracts connected to the top three, it is a much better group in the immediate future than what the team currently has rostered.
Why it won’t happen: Ultimately, the Blackhawks won’t be able to afford Karlsson long-term without making major changes to their roster.
This would mean needing to find a way to move one of their current top contracts (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Hossa) in order to make room. In this trade scenario, the ‘Hawks have to trade away one of their best defensive prospects and a first-round pick to get the deal done, which is a big hit to their youth and future as well.
While the idea of Karlsson being in a Blackhawks sweater is very exciting, the team can’t add another enormous contract to its roster that won’t expire for five-plus years without getting a different one off the books.