The off-ice controversy surrounding Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman likely means one or both has to go. And chances are rival GMs aren’t going to be all too willing to pay a big price to help Senators GM Pierre Dorion solve this problem.
Ask any GM or former GM in the NHL and he’ll tell you that the absolute worst time to trade a player is when you’re forced to do so. Because nothing drags down the value of a player more than all of that GM’s counterparts knowing that he’s desperate to rid himself of a problem.
So any Ottawa Senators fans hoping the organization would be able to extract the maximum return for Erik Karlsson or Mike Hoffman, or both, can pretty much come to terms with the notion that will not be the case. The way things are looking, both players will be traded out of Ottawa in the near future because really, at this point, is there any possibility either could return to a situation where it’s business as usual?
No, this tire fire will need to be put out as quickly as possible. The fact of the matter is that GM Pierre Dorion has already tried to trade both players already. Hoffman was clearly available leading up to the trade deadline last February and if the Vegas Golden Knights had been willing to pick up Bobby Ryan’s contract, the superstar defenseman would have been part of the expansion team’s run to the Stanley Cup final.
They were both likely already gone. But with the recent news out of Canada’s capital and the unfortunate and ugly situation that has developed there, it is now a fait accompli. The only difference now is that the leverage has shifted away from the Senators and their bargaining power for both players has diminished considerably. The thing is, it doesn’t actually matter anymore who is telling the truth or who is guilty of what wrongdoing. Once things go down a path this sordid and publicly ugly, the organization has no choice but to start fresh and hit the reset button.
Interest in Karlsson will still be high given the fact that, when healthy, he’s among the best players in the world. The Senators, as already mentioned, were in a difficult spot with him to begin with, likely not able to afford him beyond next season when his contract expires. Karlsson has already made it abundantly clear that he wants to be paid like the superstar he has become and there will be no hometown discount. Going to the draft this June with Karlsson still under contract for this season would have given Dorion a lot of currency in trade talks, simply because he always had the option of keeping him into the season and trading him mid-season or at the deadline if he didn’t like the offers he was getting. That option is basically off the table now. One of Karlsson’s best friends, former captain Daniel Alfredsson, has already publicly said the organization would be better off with different ownership. The Senators have already tried to deal Karlsson, and now he is embroiled in a situation where his wife has filed an application for an order for protection from harassment, allegedly from Hoffman’s fiancée, the waters have been poisoned to the point where they can’t be cleaned.
Same goes with Hoffman. Is there really any way, regardless of how all of this turns out, that Hoffman could return to the Senators next season? So now you’re in the unenviable position of trading a perennial 20-goal scorer who has finished in the top three in goals on the team each of the past four years, but carries an enormous amount of controversy with him and basically must go. There’s a reason why the Senators did not trade Hoffman at the deadline last year. Because they didn’t like the offers they were getting for him. They’re not going to get much better. And when he is dealt, you’ll have a guy in Matt Duchene, who found some chemistry with Hoffman, without a linemate and one year from becoming an unrestricted free agent himself.
Chances are the Senators were never going to get full value for Karlsson, regardless of what his value would have been. The return would have come in the form of a deal heavily weighted with futures and blue-chip prospects, but it’s quite possible that all of them combined would not replace Karlsson in his prime.
And now with the Senators mired in a world of controversy on a number of fronts, with unstable ownership and an almost certain finish at the bottom of the NHL for the next couple of seasons, there likely hasn’t been a worse time for the franchise. And that’s saying something. And there probably hasn’t been a worse time to be Pierre Dorion, the man who now has to sort out this mess and somehow come out of it with at least a glimmer of hope for the future.
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