Talk about coming out of the gates hot, but I wanted to touch on Howard Berger’s latest column “Leafs Following Or Bucking Trend?”, Howard makes the argument that the Maple Leafs missed the boat by not trading for Karlsson. The main reason is that the Maple Leafs defense needs some work, and Karlsson would put the Maple Leafs over the top as favorites to win the Stanley Cup this upcoming season.
Fair enough, but in any transaction there are two teams that are involved and both have to weigh the cost and benefits of a trade of this magnitude. So I thought I would tackle this topic from both Senators and Maple Leafs perspective as it helps to shape the very reason why this trade never was going to happen.
Let’s start with how controversial this trade would be in the eyes of Senators fans/media. Yes, there have been trades between the Maple Leafs and Senators but all would pale in comparison to any deal that would have involved Karlsson making his way to Toronto.
This is an already angry fan base who has watched the face of their hockey team essentially pushed out of town by the owner and one would have to think this is only made worse if the team Karlsson was traded to was named the Toronto Maple Leafs and not the San Jose Sharks where Karlsson eventually ended up.
At least with Karlsson out of the Conference, the fans in Ottawa can view Karlsson as out of sight and out of mind. But what if they had to watch him play for the Leafs, Better yet, what if the face of their franchise for so many years helped the Maple Leafs win a Stanley Cup? The PR nightmare for Pierre Dorian and staff would last for years to come no matter what the return was from Toronto.
From a Maple Leafs perspective, they would have had to pay a premium to complete this trade. If I were Pierre Dorian and the Maple Leafs came calling, you better believe I would make them pay through the roof and then some. I would start with a package of either Mitch Marner or William Nylander and a mix picks and prospects possibly Timothy Liljegren and that is just scratching the surface. How crippling would that be to the Maple Leafs top six to lose one of the main pieces? There isn’t anyone in the Maple Leafs organization that could step in right away and make up for the production that Mitch Marner or even Nylander for that matter provide.
Outside of the immediate hole in the top six such a trade would have created, one other thought came to mind when I read Howard’s blog, and that was what about next summer?
What if the Maple Leafs did acquire Karlsson for say a package that included Nylander or Marner and still didn’t win the Stanley Cup and then add to that the possibility that Karlsson makes his way to Tampa to play alongside Victor Hedman as an UFA next year and you have a recipe for disaster.
I would be furious at Leafs management at watching one of Nylander/Marner ending up in Ottawa to help them to turn their franchise around and at the same time watch Karlsson make his way to another divisional rival like Tampa Bay. This scenario would be a huge setback from an organizational stand point, and one that was conveniently omitted in Howard’s post and one that the fanbase and media in Toronto wouldn’t soon let management forget.
So a trade between the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs involving Erik Karlsson was never going to happen, for both organizations it is probably best that it didn’t as the cost and fallout if things for any reason didn’t go as planned would have been a disaster.