“The time is nigh’.” Those were the famous words first said to sought out upcoming free agent Erik Karlsson when first asked about his return to Ottawa as a member of the San Jose Sharks.
Now granted the Swedish superstar defenseman ended up walking out immediately after as his team just suffered a loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs but once again we can use those famous words once again when it comes to returning to the Ottawa Senators.
On July 1st, when Erik Karlsson‘s current contract expires and becomes an unrestricted free agent, he very well could be given that opportunity to become a returning member of the very team that drafted him and played his almost entirety of his NHL career with. Whether that happens or not or if Karlsson wants to is a different story entirely. However, if I’m the current general manager of the Senators, Pierre Dorion, I have to consider on throwing a pitch to the team’s former and most recent captain.
Why the Return Makes Sense
There are numerous reasons as to why Sens owner Eugene Melnyk and company should throw their best effort at Erik, from ticket sales and poor attendance to star power in the locker room and line up to giving back to the very loyal fans that are still with the team cheering and to those who left and have temporarily or permanently snubbed the team. Let’s break it down.
First of all, as it is well known across the NHL, the Ottawa Senators operate on an internal budget set by Eugene Melnyk. That’s not to say that the Ottawa Senators won’t or don’t need to spend this summer. The Sens currently sit at a projected cap hit of $47.9M and are almost $15M shy of reaching the cap floor, not including the estimations of there three restricted free agents still to be signed. From what’s speculated, Erik Karlsson is looking to sign a contract with a similar dollar value or more of LA Kings elite defenseman, Drew Doughty, who has an annual cap hit of $11M. Surely if Erik signed that kind of deal, the Senators would have no worries in reaching the almost $62M cap floor.
Tie in the fact that no one of the Senators blueline even comes close to making half that with unbelievably Mark Borowiecki being the highest paid (Cody Ceci pending RFA) at $1.2M, it would be safe to assume that Ottawa could use some serious star power. No offense to Thomas Chabot, he’ll get what’s due to him next season when he becomes a RFA.
Patching Holes in the Roster
The backend of Ottawa lacks star power as much as the locker room does as Dorion didn’t have much choice in trading away three key star players at the past trade deadline in Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, and Mark Stone. Ottawa does have some great up and coming players in the likes of Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Logan Brown, Alex Formenton, and the aforementioned Chabot to name a few but there isn’t anyone with close or greater of the same skill level and with a veteran presence. That’s another check for Erik.
Who wouldn’t love that kind of star power and a familiarity no more than the fans? The fans, the only thing that would and can keep the Senators afloat and the very people that feel heartbroken and betrayed by the vilified owner Melnyk. If Scrooge Eugene truly wants to bring the fanbase back and make Sens Army strong once again and not suffer with a measly and dwindling average attendance of 14 553, good for 27th in the league, then giving an open pocket, and heaven forbid his heart, to the two time Norris trophy winning Erik Karlsson. Outside of the legendary Daniel Alfredsson, who’s the only modern Ottawa Senator to have his number retired, there may not be as a beloved player in Ottawa than Erik Karlsson. Sure you could make a case for the two of the longest tenured players in Senators history in both Chris Phillips and Chris Neil, but neither of them were as close to being as dynamic and exciting to watch as Karlsson.
The Answer is Clear
Check it out, the locker room needs him, the financial structure of the team could be solved, Erik’s wife Melinda is a proud Ottawa native, the fiasco with Mike Hoffman and his wife is in hindsight as he’s a member of the Florida Panthers, and most of all the the fans might forgive and forget and some might even come back which bumps ticket sales back up.
There’s no one better than Erik Karlsson for the Ottawa Senators to gun for this free agency. Sure, Erik might reject with hard feelings but not taking a shot at all might one of the biggest mistakes in this franchise’s history.