July 7, 2018 | 9:40am ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period



TORONTO, ON -- The Ottawa Senators are in a very tough predicament. They know it. The other 30 teams know it. The fans know it. They’re going to trade Erik Karlsson at some point, presumably soon, and the return isn’t expected to knock anyone’s socks off. Will it be respectable? Sure. Will it be a home run? Sorry, no.

Karlsson has made it clear he does not plan on signing an extension with the Senators. Their eight-year, $80 million offer, or thereabouts, was a fine offer... just not for a player like Karlsson. Senators GM Pierre Dorion told everyone he’d pitch an offer July 1. He did. Now, he has yet another excuse to trade his captain and tell the fans he had no choice.

The Senators aren’t winning this eventual trade. The best player in the deal will be leaving Ottawa. It’s that simple. Knowing Karlsson won’t re-sign puts Dorion at an unfortunate disadvantage. But it is what it is. It’s up to Dorion to maximize the best return he can.

Talks with the Vegas Golden Knights have gone back to mid-season, well ahead of the NHL’s late-February trade deadline. It reportedly came close, but the Sens backed off. They chatted again before the NHL Draft. That, too, came close, but it’s believed the Senators backed off, yet again.

Knights GM George McPhee has been tremendously frustrated with the back-and-forth negotiations with the Sens, multiple sources have told us. Again, Dorion’s job is to do what’s best for his team and if he doesn’t feel the right deal is there, he won’t make the move. It doesn’t mean the Knights can’t be irritated. 

Talks between the two clubs are ongoing, and a deal would include Bobby Ryan. Vegas would ship back a hefty package, and the names of Shea Theodore, Colin Miller, Erik Brannstrom and Erik Haula have reportedly been discussed as some of the pieces. We’ll see where it goes.

The Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks entered the equation fairly recently, after losing out on John Tavares. While we’ve reported the Sharks offered Tavares a seven-year deal worth over $13 million per season, we’ve been told the Stars never pitched a formal offer to Tavares. Odd, perhaps, but it doesn’t really matter now.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers and a few other teams have also inquired about Karlsson, with the Islanders and Rangers, at one point, willing to include Ryan in the deal. We had reported earlier in the week that the Rangers were no longer in the hunt – it’s our understanding that they’ve re-entered the mix, and not just as a possible third-team to help eat up some salary.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman isn’t afraid to make a bold move, but as much as he’d love to get his hands on Karlsson – he tried prior to the trade deadline – he might not be willing to give up the assets needed, especially if Karlsson won’t commit to an extension.

There is some talk Karlsson may not be willing to ink an extension until he and his wife are comfortable in their new city. That’ll factor into Ottawa’s return, and conditional draft picks will/should be part of the discussion. 

If Karlsson does agree to an extension with the Bolts, though, that gives Ottawa the best chance at maximizing a return. But as it’s been reported by many these last couple of days, Tampa would need to move out some salary and Ryan Callahan is the most likely candidate.

Callahan has a limited no-movement clause where he can list 16 teams he would accept a trade to; defencemen Braydon Coburn and Anton Stralman have the same clause. The Lightning has talked to the Rangers about taking on Callahan, and so have the New Jersey Devils, whom we reported emerged as a third-team in a possible Ottawa/Tampa deal a couple of days ago.

It’s unclear if the Sharks, Avalanche or a mystery team are still in the race. We’ve not received confirmation one way or another.

The Islanders were an interesting player in this game earlier in the week. The information we’ve gathered tells us they’ve explored both Karlsson and Ryan. There is definite interest. They, like other teams, have spoken with Karlsson about his contractual status, but it all comes down to whether or not he’d accept a move (and eventual extension) to Long Island/Brooklyn/Belmont. I suppose it truly comes down to what Isles GM Lou Lamoriello deems necessary...

...and that circles us back to the Stars.

Dallas GM Jim Nill and his staff are very interested in acquiring Karlsson. It seems to be a priority, as the team has put contract negotiations with star centre Tyler Seguin on the backburner for the time being. But the return the Stars are believed to be discussing may not match up to what the Golden Knights, Lightning, or another club, are presenting.

Last year’s third-overall selection Miro Heiskanen isn’t going anywhere. There has been plenty of speculation over Ottawa’s interest in Heiskanen, and for good reason, but multiple sources close to the Stars have told us the team is not interested in moving him, not even in a deal for Karlsson, and I first shared that news via Twitter three days ago.

If the Sens go to the dance with the Stars, they’re looking at a package that includes blueliner Julius Honka, some of the team’s other prospects like Jason Dickinson, Dennis Gurianov and/or Riley Tufte, among others, and a young roster player.

By now, Dorion has a pretty good indication of what’s out there. It’s up to him to decide whether what’s being presented by the Knights, Lightning, Islanders, Stars, or Mystery Team X is good enough to put this saga to bed.

My gut tells me this matter is resolved by no later than Sunday night. My gut has also told me chili fries at 3AM is a good call. What’s your gut telling you, Pierre? We’ll hopefully know soon enough.


David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period.
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