With the Ottawa Senators trading star defenseman Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks, it's interesting to look at the timeline of things and see this deal was inevitable.
The idea of trading Karlsson started months ago when the Senators finished well below expectations, especially after making a strong playoff run just one season earlier. Months of back and forth between the team, ownership, the players and fans led to a place where a trade was all but necessary and that it was San Jose who acquired Karlsson should not come as a shock to anyone.
Should we look a little more closely, it's not hard to see how all this came to be.
The Senators Change In Direction
No team has a season as bad as Ottawa did without the need for some kind of change. When the franchise made it within one win of the Stanley Cup Finals, only to find fans didn't want to attend games and the owner make outrageous remarks about those same fans and the city, it was clear there was a storm brewing.
Owner, Eugene Melnyk backtracked on his comments and stated he had no intention of moving the team and was going to offer Karlsson an extension; but all the while, people witnessing the drama unfold understood if Karlsson was going to stay, it would be for a lesser deal and without a strong team to surround him. The news of Ottawa rebuilding got louder and louder, all the way up to a few days before his trade where the team released a video publicly stating they were blowing things up.
Karlsson Trade Talks Got Loud
Before that video and after the Senators put together an abysmal season in 2017-18, the summer got even stranger. It was already clear the organization was shifting gears but out of nowhere, an issue between the significant others of Karlsson and teammate Mike Hoffman reared its ugly head and it became obvious the two players wouldn't be playing together. While everyone knew if the allegations were true, Karlsson had to be upset, but most knew it was Hoffman that would be moved. He was, and all the while, Karlsson stayed quiet.
The controversy was enough to add even more fuel to the fire and trade talks surrounding Karlsson got loud. The Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights, and Sharks were all part of the speculation but only San Jose and Vegas really had the proper salary cap set up to make a deal work.
While this was going on, the Senators did stay true to their word and offered Karlsson an extension on July 1. That extension was rumored to be below market value and their budget wouldn't allow them to structure the deal in such a way that Karlsson would be compensated with heavy upfront guaranteed bonuses. He turned it down immediately.
The Sharks Stayed Hungry
With a Karlsson extension all but out of question, a trade was obvious. Despite many believing an exchange with Tampa was close, the Lightning had little cap room to make a deal work. So too, the Dallas Stars were busy working on a contract for center Tyler Seguin. Vegas was always near the front of the pack but when they acquired Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens, things got iffy. It was San Jose — the team that never made a lot of noise — who stayed hungry.
After the trade, it was revealed in an interview with Senators GM Pierre Dorion that the Sharks had talked with Ottawa back at last year's deadline, again at the start of July and seriously in the final two weeks leading up to the trade. They'd also been relatively quiet all summer while teams in their division stockpiled assets to stay competitive in the Western Conference. Anyone who knows GM Doug Wilson well knows that when it comes to the Sharks, that was not his modus operandi.
The Season Approached
The Senators claimed the start of the preseason was not an arbitrary deadline, but it's hard to believe the organization wanted a trade looming over the team during the season. The video released by Melynk that spouted as many as 16 new players in two years was the sign a trade was coming. It was likely a matter of days.
As Thursday rolled along and the Senators were one day away from Karlsson potentially taking the ice, chatter got louder and rumors circulated that the organization was prepared to move Karlsson right away. And, like Wilson often does, he made a deal seemingly out of nowhere.
Karlsson stood before the media after the trade and proclaimed his regret for having to leave Ottawa but the reality was, he had to approve the trade, the Sharks now have the best blue line in the NHL and San Jose has the wherewithal to re-sign him to a long-term, big-money extension. All the pieces fit, almost like it was meant to be from the beginning.