September 13, 2018 will be a date forever marked in Ottawa Senators history. The Erik Karlsson trade signaled the end of an era for the franchise and the start of a new chapter.

On Mar. 1, 2018, owner Eugene Melnyk wrote to fans, promising a rebuild with the ultimate goal of bringing a Stanley Cup to Canada’s capital city. In the letter, Melnyk hinted major changes were on the way:

“The kind of change required to reclaim our standing needs a change in approach, requires difficult decisions and commitment to a plan. As an organization, and community, it meant saying goodbye to some very good players this year – quality men who gave their all on the ice and in the community.”

Six months later, after intense speculation, the Senators completed “the most important trade in rebuild“. The hockey club’s franchise player, All Star defenseman, and two-time Norris Trophy winner was dealt to the San Jose Sharks in a blockbuster deal. The trade involved arguably the world’s best defenseman, and a total of eight assets were exchanged between the two teams, with the assets having a potential to grow to 10.

The San Jose Sharks Acquired:

The Ottawa Senators Acquired:

Immediate Reaction

Emotions aside, the immediate reactions to this massive deal from hockey experts created the impression that Sharks general manager Doug Wilson made out like a bandit. Despite giving up six assets, none grabbed immediate attention like the trade’s headliner, Karlsson. Tierney and DeMelo played depth roles on the Sharks roster and were the only two NHL ready players involved heading to Ottawa. Norris and Balcers both hold solid potential but are unproven. The same can be said of the high ranked draft picks.

It seemed while the Sharks received quality in Karlsson as a proven and elite asset, the Senators received quantity with the potential to grow in the medium to long-term future.

After the trade was executed, San Jose became instant Stanley Cup favourites in the West. The addition of Karlsson bolstered an already strong blue line consisting of Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Re-Evaluation

Just as it is fair and timely to immediately react to this trade when it first happened, it is fair to reflect and re-evaluate this trade as time progresses. With nearly one-third of the 2018-19 season complete, and with Karlsson set to make his first return to Ottawa as a member of an opposing team this Saturday, Dec. 1, it is timely to conduct a re-evaluation of this blockbuster.

The San Jose Sharks

After 26 games, the San Jose Sharks are tied for second in the Pacific Division and tied for eighth in the NHL with a record of 12-9-5 and 29 points. The following chart lists the players the Sharks received in the trade with Ottawa.

Players acquired by the Sharks:

Name Team (League) Position G A Pts GP Team Scoring Rank
Erik Karlsson San Jose (NHL) D 2 13 15 26 8th
Francis Perron San Jose (AHL) LW 9 8 17 17 1st

G= Goals, A= Assists, Pts= Points, GP= Games Played, D= Defense, LW= Left Wing

The Ottawa Senators

After 26 games, the Ottawa Senators are tied for fifth in the Atlantic Division and are tied for 12th in the NHL with a record of 11-12-3 and 25 points.

Players acquired by the Senators:

Name Team (League) Position G A Pts GP Team Scoring Rank
Chris Tierney Ottawa (NHL) C 3 15 18 26 4th
Dylan DeMelo Ottawa (NHL) D 2 5 7 26 9th (Tied)
Rudolfs Balcers Belleville (AHL) LW 7 6 13 21 2nd (Tied) 
Josh Norris University of Michigan (NCAA) C 8 8 16 13 1st

G= Goals, A= Assists, Pts= Points, GP= Games Played, C=Centre, D= Defense, LW= Left Wing

Draft picks acquired by the Senators:

Year Round Conditions
2019 or 2020 1st This pick is not lottery protected. If the Sharks miss the playoffs in 2018-19, the pick will become a 2019 selection. Otherwise, it will be in 2020.
2019 2nd The higher of the two picks the Sharks currently own, the Florida Panthers and their own.
2021 2nd, which may upgrade to a 1st Should the Sharks sign Karlsson to a contract extension, Ottawa receives San Jose’s second-round selection in 2021, which would upgrade to a first-round selection (not lottery protected) if San Jose reaches the Stanley Cup Final in 2019.

 

2022 or earlier 1st If Karlsson is on an Eastern Conference roster (reserve list) during the 2018-19 season, the Senators will receive an additional first round pick from the Sharks no later than 2022.

Chabot Unleashed

Every action has a reaction. Removing Karlsson from Ottawa’s blueline should have created an enormous void, next to impossible of filling. However, after 26 games this season, Thomas Chabot is proving he is more than capable of filling Karlsson’s absence.

To date, the 21-year-old defenseman is above a point-per-game average, with an incredible 29 points (7G, 22A) in 26 games. This places him first amongst all NHL defensemen in point production. Furthermore, he is top 10 in league scoring, ahead of players like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Brent Burns, and his former teammate, Karlsson. Let this resonate for a moment.

With the former captain gone, Chabot is now quarterbacking the Sens’ blue line and making the most of his opportunity.

Conclusion

It will take years before the hockey world fully knows who the winner and who the loser is of the Karlsson trade. This subject will be re-evaluated many more times in the future before any conclusion is reached with certainty.

Despite the immediate reaction from hockey experts pointing at San Jose as the winner, the Senators return has outperformed expectations early in the season. Tierney, Balcers, and Norris are offensive leaders on their respective teams. Ottawa has also upset two anticipated Stanley Cup contenders in the East, scoring big wins against the fully-loaded Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs. Lastly, Chabot is embracing his bigger role and opportunity with Karlsson gone, which has unleashed his offensive giftedness.

From the Sharks perspective, Karlsson is off to an uncharacteristically slow start in terms of his points production. However, he remains an elite player, and having him on the blue line gives Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer plenty of options in all situations on the ice. Furthermore, the team is clearly benefitting with the Burns-Karlsson-Vlasic combo, as they sit second in the Pacific, tied with the Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks, who are all just one point behind the first-place Calgary Flames.

One-third of the way through the 2018-19 season, and the Karlsson trade is starting to look a lot less one-sided in favour of the Sharks and more like a win-win for both teams involved.

Article last updated: November 29, 2018

Billy Morrison covers the Ottawa Senators and the Atlantic Division for Full Press Coverage. Follow Billy on Twitter, @BillyMorrison01.

Billy Morrison
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