The Case For Erik Karlsson Trade To The Rangers
The 2018 NHL Entry Draft has passed us and it’s time to get the wheels going on some good ol’ fashioned opinion pieces. The boss isn’t going to like this one, but he likes it when we spar with our opinions, so here we go!
Editor’s Note: If you want to read or revisit my take on Karlsson click here
Okay, strap yourselves in, we’ve got ourselves a bit of a boondoggle here. I have no idea what that means, but it’s just funny to say boondoggle. BOONDOGGLE!
A piece was published a couple days ago on this blog describing the reasons why Erik Karlsson is not a fit for the Rangers. Now, to be fair, all of the points in that article are valid points and make a ton of sense, but this piece will touch on some things that I think could actually go in the opposite direction, favoring the Rangers down the line.
Karlsson Makes Sense
Erik Karlsson makes sense for the New York Rangers. Yes, I said it. It may seem impossible considering the current state of the Rangers, but there are many factors that can sway in the Rangers favor in acquiring the fleet footed defenseman from the Ottawa Senators. Why does Erik Karlsson make sense for the Blueshirts?
Elite Skill This Team Has Sorely Missed
This is no knock to Kevin Shattenkirk at all, but bringing in Karlsson would launch him as the best defenseman on the team. Karlsson displays an elite skill set in his defensive zone, as well as superb hands to contribute to the offense. Every Ranger fan remembers Karlsson picking apart the blueshirts on one leg in last year’s playoffs. When was the last time the Rangers had a player who possessed this kind of level on the back end? When was the last time the Rangers had a player who could snap and score on a whim? Sure, Ryan McDonagh was an elite shutdown defenseman in his own right, but Erik Karlsson’s talent level surpasses McDonagh’s can add more to a team that is sorely hurting on the back end.
The influx of youth this team has defensively and adding a guy like Karlsson allows these young guns to not only learn from a player like him, but the pressures of trying to do way more than needed to help the team would lessen, as guys like Karlsson, Shattenkirk, Skjei and so forth would ease the transition to the big leagues for said youth. Seeing the type of player recently drafted K’Andre Miller could become, wouldn’t having a guy like Erik Karlsson hanging around help his cause? I know that’s a bit of a stretch but it’s not an impossibility.
For years, the problem the Rangers have faced was the lack of an elite player outside of the goal crease. We ran a piece on how having an elite goaltender isn’t enough for the Rangers to really compete for a cup. John Tavares is more than likely not coming to Broadway and Ilya Kovalchuk signed with LA, along with the team apparently not interested in Artemi Panarin, so why not Karlsson?
Players like Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Vitali Kravtsov along with Kreider, Zibanejad, Hayes and so forth are expected to help shore up top end skill up front, but outside of that, what kind of elite skill do they have on the back end? Kevin Shattenkirk and Brady Skjei are top tier defenseman but neither posses the elite skill that an Erik Karlsson could bring to the table. Every strong Stanley Cup contending team has at least one highly skilled, elite type player outside the crease. The Capitals have Alex Ovechkin, the Penguins have Sidney Crosby, The Blackhawks have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Rangers having Karlsson boosts the Rangers into this category.
The team is currently in a transition from an offensive team to taking a strong approach to defense. Nominated for the Norris trophy six times and winning two of them, Karlsson is no slouch in his own zone. He’s a sleek skater who can not only hold his own in the defensive end, but can also contribute heavily on the offense and power play. Hitting 60 plus points five times in his career, he can add another dimension to a team who could look for offense in every facet possible.
A Leader and a Gamer
I can get behind a guy who destroyed two teams on one leg. Seriously, that playoff performance was nothing short of incredible. His leadership and energy level is what helped propel a gritty Senators team into the playoffs last season. Many of his teammates praise and applaud his leadership in the room, with many citing him to be the main man for everyone to rely on.
The Ottawa captain is a long shot to win the Hart Trophy this season as the player judged most valuable to his team, but that criteria fits Karlsson perfectly. He has 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in his past 25 games and has turned it on when the Senators needed him most.
Karlsson’s value to the Senators is immeasurable, and Boucher was able to implement a more defensively responsible system in Ottawa because Karlsson bought in so convincingly.
To see Karlsson put up 71 points (17 goals, 54 assists) in 77 games is not surprising, because he has been among the NHL’s best offensive defensemen for years. What is surprising is to see him second in the NHL with 201 blocked shots, surpassing his career high of 175 set last season. Arpon Basu/NHL.com
A guy like him on Broadway would add to the leadership group including Henrik Lundqvist, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello. That’s a fairly strong group as is and adding a guy like Karlsson, along with new head coach David Quinn, could make for a team that just doesn’t give up or fold.
The Anchor The Team Can Rely On
In the days of the shutdown pair of Girardi and Staal or Girardi and McDonagh (which honestly feels like ages ago), they were seen as anchors for the team to hold down the fort against top tier players like Crosby and Ovechkin. They did that successfully for many seasons but with Girardi’s contract bought out, McDonagh sent to Tampa Bay and Staal a shell of what he used to be, this team lacks a defenseman that could take on heavy minutes against other team’s top end talent.
Let’s be honest here, Kevin Shattenkirk and Brady Skjei could do the job, but outside of that, who do the Rangers have? I am aware that guys like Pionk, Rykov, Hajek and Lindgren can develop into these types of shut down defenseman, but to have them play heavy minutes could expose them and the team to a world of hurt.
Having a guy like Erik Karlsson can help these young defenseman gradually become the players they can be by anchoring either one of them with him as a pair or allowing them to play the right amount of minutes they need for proper development. For years, Karlsson has played against the top end players of the league and has held his own in spectacular fashion. This team is looking to build from the back end and up, and as mentioned above, a guy like Karlsson could rub off on some of these young players and help their development.
He’s Not Old. Traveled, But Not Old
He’s 28 years old. Sure, he’s been around since he was just 19-20 years old but he isn’t old. Although he does have a history with injuries, especially with a lacerated Achilles tendon and two hairline fractures in his ankle, it doesn’t seem to have affected his overall play all that much.
None of this takes away from the fact that he’s still arguably the best defenseman in the game and he’s only 28 years old! I’m 25, does this make me old as well? If the Rangers were looking into players such as Ilya Kovalchuk and previously Danis Zaripov (Yes, I pulled that one out of obscurity) who were older, why not look into Karlsson? I understand the Rangers are trying to get younger with this rebuild or retool, but Karlsson isn’t skating with a walker and cashing AARP benefits, so why not?
He’s not old enough to retire yet he’s got years of experience and plenty of years left in his prime.
He’s Going To Be Pricey, But Not Impossible
Before anything, I am aware that trading for Karlsson at the moment may cost the Rangers a lot. It also means that Bobby Ryan would have to come back this way, since it seems the two were joined at the hip but if there’s one thing the Rangers were always good at lately, it’s making a solid trade. Need I remind you of Scott Gomez + Tom Pyatt for Chris Higgins, Pavel Valentenko and some guy named Ryan McDonagh. Wonder what came of that McDonagh guy?
My point is, from previous reports of past dealings with Senators GM Pierre Dorion, it seems to me he is ripe for the picking in the line of making a bad move, just like Glen Sather did to Bob Gainey. Dorion not only did not maximize his value on Mike Hoffman but also misread the market on Kyle Turris for Matt Duchene and somehow felt the need to trade for Alexandre Burrows. Jeff Gorton and company are no slouches and if they felt they could make a deal now, without having to give up too much, Pierre Dorion seems like the guy to do it to.
Whether they trade for him now or sign him next summer, Erik Karlsson is a good fit for the New York Rangers. It’s been stated many times that Gorton and Co do not want to throw the youth out there by themselves and want to add veteran presences to the team. What better than a 28 year old elite defenseman who is still in his prime, still young and has many more years ahead of him? The man can defend with the best of them and generate offense from the back end as well. He can help with the development of the young defensive corps this team boasts along with clogging up big minutes against top end talent. Currently, the Rangers are in the midst of a rebuild or retool and have acquired a lot of pieces that could be used in a deal.
This doesn’t mean I want Andersson or Chytil or even Hajek gone, but it seems to me Pierre Dorion could be had. Also, I want to add, although his cap is high, I would not totally be opposed to bringing in Bobby Ryan. Call me crazy but I think the guy could still play and if it meant getting Karlsson here sooner rather than later with an extension for Karlsson, why not? Other than that, New York should absolutely fork over the money to EK in Free Agency next season.
In order for this rebuild to go smoothly, the Rangers need people with experience, especially on the back end. Erik Karlsson is that guy.
Feel free to follow me on the Twitter @JLChaparro8. Feel free to follow, then yell at me and tell me why I’m wrong or tell me how nice my hair looks from afar! Lets Go Rangers!