Dreger: Strong sense Karlsson could be moved sooner than later

An Erik Karlsson trade may finally be executed in the coming days, after months of speculation.

Darren Dreger shared his latest sense of what may be going on there during a Wednesday afternoon Leafs Lunch segment on Toronto’s TSN 1050, when asked whether or not he felt a move was imminent.

“I don’t like that word. I’ve never liked the word ‘imminent’ unless it’s coming from the mouth of a general manager or a source that is impeccable, because it gets you in trouble when we as a media toss that word out,” said Dreger. “So I’m not going to apply that word ‘imminent’ to an Erik Karlsson trade, but I can tell you this - everything is pointing to Erik Karlsson being moved by the Ottawa Senators within a day or two. I mean, that’s our sense.

“What’s difficult though, is dialing in on the most likely destination here. There’s been lots of speculation over the last several months, and Tampa Bay certainly has been in that mix. In light of the manager change, is it conceivable that BriseBois could put Yzerman’s deal back on the table and maybe sweeten it to some degree? Yeah, I think it’s conceivable.

“I look at Vegas. Vegas to me still seems like a likely destination. But again, I don’t have a deep, deep source that is positioning at this point in the day to say, ‘Yep, we’re working hard on this.’ I think Vegas is most definitely still in it. I thought that was the case with the Dallas Stars earlier this morning, but a Stars’ source told me it’s quiet on that front.

“So I guess the only thing that we’re reporting is what we’re feeling, and what we’re feeling right now is from ownership down in Ottawa, there’s a strong sense that Erik Karlsson could be moved sooner than later.”

Karlsson is in the final year of his contract and has a modified no-trade clause with that contract, a deal that carries a $6.5 million cap hit.

As the conversation on 1050 continued, Dreger was asked if a Karlsson trade would be contingent on the defenseman signing an extension or not, particularly given the difficulty the Lightning might have in squeezing Karlsson in beyond this season.

“Good question. I think that there are lots of things in play,” indicated Dreger. “I know that everytime that I throw the possibility of Tampa Bay out there, just kind of confidentially with some of my sources, particularly rival teams, what I get back is exactly what you just said - how does Tampa Bay make that work. How do they make that work from a cap perspective after this year.

“Vegas has boatloads of cap space. They may not want to part with the pieces. I think that if George McPhee had been willing to throw Shea Theodore into the mix at the trade deadline, Erik Karlsson probably would have been moved at that point to the Vegas Golden Knights.

“What I’m hearing from people who pay close attention to the Golden Knights is that they’ve got some really good young developing defensemen, so maybe they feel different now that they’ve acquired Max Pacioretty that they’re willing to take a bit more of a chance on their back end. And hey, Shea Theodore is going through a real tough negotiation with George McPhee and the Golden Knights now too.

“So maybe that’s all part of it. Maybe - and this is just speculation here - maybe there’s a willingness from Vegas’ standpoint to include Theodore now in that type of trade for Karlsson, whereas they wouldn’t do it at the trade deadline.”

The final section of the Karlsson-related discussion on 1050 began with a reference to the Lightning having three defensemen - Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn, and Dan Girardi - on expiring contracts, which will free up more cap space moving forward.

“Look, I don’t think there’s any doubt there’s a strong appetite in Tampa Bay,” noted Dreger. “And what a boondoggle for the Lightning and Julien BriseBois if he’s actually able to do it.

“All along, I’ve never gotten the sense that Ottawa prefered to trade him to Tampa Bay for a myriad of reasons. Obviously Pierre Dorion, and maybe to some degree Eugene Melynk, would prefer to trade him to the West.

“But at this stage, based on where we’re at… let’s give Marc Bergevin and Montreal a bit of credit. I think publicly both sides handled the Max Pacioretty situation pretty well, aside from ‘did he ask for a trade,’ or ‘didn’t he ask for a trade.’ But Bergevin and the Habs deserve some credit for recognizing that they didn’t need a negative storyline going into this season yet again. There’s enough going on around Montreal that they didn’t need (this) looming over the room and looming over their product.

“And I feel like that somewhat applies to Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators. So now we’re into the eleventh hour, right. We’re into the eleventh hour of this process. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Dorion is getting a little heat from his owner to close on this deal.”


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