Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson Trade Re-Visited

OTTAWA, ON - MARCH 9: Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators reacts after a long shift in a game against the Calgary Flames at Canadian Tire Centre on March 9, 2018 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
OTTAWA, ON - MARCH 9: Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators reacts after a long shift in a game against the Calgary Flames at Canadian Tire Centre on March 9, 2018 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

Rebuilds take time, some more than others. The Ottawa Senators are currently in year 5 of their rebuild. Let’s look back at the most important trade of the rebuild, the Erik Karlsson trade.

Battle of the Tkachuks. light. Related Story

First, let’s discuss Karlsson’s time in Ottawa.
Erik Karlsson will always be known as an all-time great Senator. He is arguably the most skilled player the team has ever seen, and will most certainly make it to the Hockey Hall of Fame once he calls it a career. He was drafted 15th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Level Drafted (which was hosted in Ottawa ironically enough). Originally though, Ottawa had the 18th overall selection. Fearing that their guy would be selected before their pick, Brian Murray completed a trade with the Nashville Predators sending the 18th overall (who turned out to be Chet Pickard) and the Sens 2009 Third (who turned out to be Taylor Beck). Ottawa Senators franchise legend and fan-favorite Daniel Alfredsson would announce the selection. At first glance, it was simply Alfredsson, a Frolunda Indians (now known as Frolunda HC) alum announcing the selection of another Frolunda alum, but looking back it was a bit of an early passing of the torch if you want to look at it that way.

Erik Karlsson would make his NHL debut in the 2009-2010 season in which he would play a total of 60 games with the Senators. He would make the team out of training camp, but after struggling through the first 9 games of the season he was sent down to the AHL for some development. He proved to be too good for the AHL scoring 11 points in 12 games (all assists) and was called back up. In 60 games that season he would score 5 goals and 21 assists for 26 points.

In his next season, Erik Karlsson would make the All-Star Roster for the first time in his career. He would finish the season with 13 goals and 32 assists for 45 points in 75 games. In the 2011-12 season, he would continue his development and led the entire NHL in All-Star Voting. He finished the season with 19 goals and 59 assists for 78 points in 81 games. He won his first Norris Trophy that season.

Erik Karlsson would continue to impress in the next few years. On October 2nd, 2014, it was announced that he would be named the team’s next captain, replacing Jason Spezza who was traded to the Dallas Stars. Karlsson would serve in this role until he ultimately left the team.

In his first season as captain, he would lead all NHL Defensemen in points with 66. He also scored a then career-high of 21 goals.  This would also be the season of the infamous “hamburglar” run in which the Senators made a completely unexpected run to reach the playoffs. Karlsson would win his second Norris Trophy.

The last Erik Karlsson memory I will highlight is the 2016-17 season in which the Ottawa Senators reached the Eastern Conference Finals. Karlsson would lead the team in regular-season points with 9 goals and 53 assists for 62 points in 71 games. He would also lead the team in postseason scoring with 2 goals and 16 assists for 18 points in 19 playoff games before being eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals. His performance was so good that he would receive Conn Smythe (Playoff MVP) votes despite not even appearing in the finals.

Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end, and Erik Karlsson’s tenure with Ottawa would end on September 13th, 2018, as he was traded to the San Jose Sharks.

The trade

Erik Karlsson and Francis Perron were traded to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, A first-round pick, and a conditional second-round pick. Let’s break down every piece of this trade.

Chris Tierney

Tierney is the easiest piece to break down so let’s start with him. In his time with the Senators, he would score a grand total of 32 goals and 90 assists for 122 points in 277 games with the Sens spaced out throughout four seasons. He would walk away in free agency as the Senators opted to not re-sign him after the 2021-22 season. He had the best season of his NHL career with the sens in 2018 in which he scored 9 goals and 39 assists for 39 points in 81 games.

Dylan DeMelo

Dylan DeMelo was immediately slotted as Thomas Chabot‘s defensive partner and the pairing found great success. Chabot would score a career-high of 14 goals and 41 assists for 55 points in the 2018-19 season paired with DeMelo. He really was the perfect partner for the young offensive defenseman. Unfortunately, the pairing was broken apart as DeMelo was traded away on February 18th, 2020 for a 2020 third-round pick. That pick ended up being used to select goaltender Leevi Merilainen. Merilainen is currently a top prospect in the Senators organization and is playing with the Belleville Senators of the AHL.

Rudolfs Balcers

Balcers was not an Ottawa Senator for long. He would play in a handful of games for the Sens before being juggled between the NHL and AHL. He was eventually claimed on waivers by the San Jose Sharks (ironic). He is now a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. In two seasons with the Sens, he would compile 51 NHL games. In those games, he scored 6 goals and 11 assists for 17 points.

Josh Norris

Josh Norris alone for Erik Karlsson could be argued as being a fair trade. Don’t get me wrong, I love Erik Karlsson, but when you acquire an elite prospect in Norris, I call that a win. I will say that he has eclipsed anything ever expected of him. He was originally projected to be a middle-six option, looking more like a third-liner of the future, but he has easily blasted through that potential and has been great for Ottawa. Last season, he became the first Ottawa Senator to score 30 goals since the 2011-12 season when Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza each scored 35 and 34 goals. Norris has played in 133 games for the Ottawa Senators and has tallied 54 goals and 39 assists fir 93 career points. His best season has so far been the 2021-22 season where he scored 35 goals and 20 assists for 55 points in 66 games. He has missed the majority of this season with a shoulder injury. He projects to be either the first or second-line center for the Senators, he will continue to battle for the number one spot with the next player I will mention.

The First Round Pick

The San Jose Sharks would send their first-round pick in 2020 to the Senators in this trade, and lucky enough for the Sens, the Sharks would commence a free-fall in the 2019-20 season. That first-round pick would eventually win the Draft Lottery and the Sens would be picking third overall in the 2020 draft. With this pick, the Sens opted to pick german Tim Stützle. Like Norris, a trade only including Stützle would be a win for the Senators. Stützle is an absolute superstar and is on pace to hit 98 points this season. In 201 NHL games so far, he has scored 69 goals and 99 assists for 168 points. He currently has 35 goals and 46 assists for 81 points for the Senators this season.  He is arguably the Sens best player and will certainly eclipse the 100-point mark at some point in his NHL career.

SenShot /

Want your voice heard? Join the SenShot team!

Write for us!

Closing Thoughts

As I previously mentioned, Erik Karlsson is an all-time Senators great. It’s impossible to just replace him. Fortunately for the Ottawa Senators, they were able to get a great package in return for trading him, and some of the pieces still remain on the team. Norris and Stützle are already core members of the team and Merilainen hopes to be the goalie of the future.