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Senators Likely Winners of Epic Rebuild After Erik Karlsson Trade

In the aftermath of the Ottawa Senators trade of Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks, which team likely won the trade?

On September 13, 2018, the Ottawa Senators began a historic reshaping of their team and the future of their organization when they traded All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson (along with Francis Perron) to the San Jose Sharks. In return, the Senators brought back Josh Norris, Chris Tierney, and Dylan DeMelo.

The Senators also received four draft choices, from the second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 draft (which turned into Tim Stutzle). The team also got a conditional round-two pick in the 2021 draft and a conditional round-one pick in the 2022 draft.


Background for the Trade

The Karlsson trade was a significant move for both teams. Karlsson had been drafted by the Senators in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Almost immediately he had established himself as one of the NHL’s best defensemen in his time in Ottawa. He had earned numerous All-Star honors and also the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman two times. He was a good player for the Senators.

Erik Karlsson Sharks Senators trade rumors
Erik Karlsson Sharks Senators trade

However, with a number of internal issues exacerbated by the team’s poor performance, the Senators decided to trade Karlsson. Part of the issue was that the Senators hadn’t made the playoffs in 2017-2018 and were close to the bottom of the NHL standings. Another part of the issue was Karlsson’s contract status.

Karlsson was entering the last year of his contract and there were concerns the team would not be able to reach an agreement on a contract extension. Rather than allowing him to walk for no return as a free agent, the team decided to trade him.

Which Team Won the Trade?

The trade was seen as a win-win for both the Sharks and the Senators. With Karlsson, the Sharks had acquired a top-tier defenseman to would help them make a deep run in the playoffs. After his contract ran out, Karlsson signed an eight-year contract extension with the Sharks. He continues to perform at a high level.

In fact, although the Sharks are not the team they were when Karlsson arrived, he hasn’t slowed down. He’s still having a banner 2022-23 regular season.

The Players Who Came to the Senators

Coming back to the Senators was a group of young players and high draft picks. These players (and players to be named later) became the grounding for the Senators’ rebuild. The players who contributed and left included Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo. Josh Norris and Tim Stutzle have only begun their Senators’ careers and have many seasons remaining.

Chris Tierney

Of the players who came to the Senators, Chris Tierney played for the team for parts of two seasons. He was a solid two-way forward, who contributed on both ends of the ice. He was then traded to the Winnipeg Jets.

Dylan DeMelo

Dylan DeMelo played for the Senators for three seasons as a dependable and steady defenseman. He was a valuable depth piece on the blue line and played on the penalty kill and usually on the team’s second-pairing. He also was traded to the Jets.

Josh Norris

When Josh Norris came to the Senators, he hadn’t yet played an NHL game but was highly valued as a prospect. He had been a member of Team USA in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship and had helped that team win a gold medal.

Josh Norris Ottawa Senators

Norris made his Senators and NHL debut in the 2019-20 season but became a regular in 2020-21 when he played 56 games, scoring 17 goals and adding 18 assists (for 35 points). He had an even more productive 2021-22 season, playing 66 games and scoring 35 goals, and adding 20 assists (for 55 points). This season Norris suffered a shoulder injury that has kept him out of all but five games.

However, the latest word from Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith this past Sunday was that  Norris’ shoulder was healed and he was getting “very close” to being ready.

Tim Stutzle

Perhaps the player who will swing the balance of the trade toward the Senators was the first-round draft choice the Senators received. With that choice, they picked up Tim Stutzle. He’s turned out – almost immediately – to be a star. Just turning 21 years of age this past Saturday, he played not a game in the AHL.

In the 2020-21 regular season, Stutzle played 53 games and scored 12 goals, and added 17 assists (29 points). In 2021-22, he played 79 games and scored 22 goals, and added 36 assists (58 points). This season, in 39 games played he’s close to scoring more goals than he did all last season (he has 19 currently) and is a point-a-game player with 40 points in his 39 games.

Tim Stutzle, Senators

Stutzle and Norris should be around far past when Karlsson retires.

The Final Analysis?

The final analysis is that the Senators will, at least from a longevity perspective, become the winners of this trade. How much the Senators win by might depend upon how Norris can come back from his injury. Unless Stutzle is injured, he’s likely going to be a star for a long time.

Related: Senators Jake Lucchini’s NHL Dreams Come True Against Sabres


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