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RawTable: The Erik Karlsson to Tampa Bay Lightning speculation keeps spinning out of control

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We have some thoughts on it.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Ottawa Senators Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

In RawTable, the staff of RawCharge come together to discuss a topic, usually relating to the Tampa Bay Lightning. This particular RawTable spun off of a group conversation that further expounds on the Erik Karlsson to Tampa speculation.

This time, it was kicked off from this article by Travis Yost on TSN.ca. We couldn’t help spending some more time talking about our favorite defenseman from the Ottawa Senators.

GeoFitz: I’ve thought about it some more. I’m wondering if a package surrounding Namestnikov could get it done. It might be one of those situations where Namestnikov has been buoyed by playing with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, and he’s a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) this summer, so his value might be at its peak right now.

Matt Esteves: I’d say his value is at its peak. Though I doubt he’d be the big piece for a trade. I’m sure GMs have noticed he has been a 30ish-point player prior to being on the “Stamkov” line. Yes, he does all the little things and deserves a good contract, but production stats still matter to NHL GMs, and outside of this season he just hasn’t had the numbers that I think would make an opposing GM ogle.

Alan: The problem I have with the Yost piece is that he doesn’t address whether the Lightning could sign Karlsson long term. Yost sort of hand-waves the idea of the cost of acquisition and spends the bulk of the article talking about how good Karlsson is, which no one is really arguing. He’s one of the best players in the game. That doesn’t mean all of the other factors suddenly become irrelevant.

Matt: That’s my biggest sticking point: cost in the long term. It’s either Brayden Point or Mikhail Sergachev involved. Losing either isn’t wise. Point especially. Tampa wouldn’t be in their position in the standings if it wasn’t for him anchoring a deadly second line.

Alan: It’s also the cap implications long term. If people think Chicago and Pittsburgh are in a bad spot, this would be even worse if the Lightning adds a fourth superstar contract and unloads cost-controlled impactful players to do so.

Matt: And dismissing the long-term ramifications is a bit silly. Yes, Karlsson is one of the best, but is it worth it to give up Point or Sergachev? We’d be all in for two years (this year and next) and then the cap gets really ugly really quick. It’d be a pure rental (albeit extended).

Whereas the team right now can win a cup. Sure, more depth on the backend is our biggest need—followed by a real third line center, but if Tampa Bay can avoid the Washington curse and the injury bug then they can do some real damage in the postseason.

Geo: To address your point about a third center, I think we might have found that in Matthew Peca. He has an opportunity to keep that spot when Palat returns with Gourde sliding back down to the third line on the right wing. Killorn-Peca-Gourde is a pretty strong third line with a little bit of size in Killorn, and with speed to burn in Peca and Gourde. I think it’s also telling that Cooper is already using Peca in a penalty-killing role. He’s long been billed as a two-way, playmaking center and I think we’re finally getting to see him put that into practice in the NHL now.

Matt: I need to see more than just a handful of games to be sold on Peca. I like what I’ve seen so far, but we can’t become overly enamored (to the point where we become a bit too homerish) when a young player is called up and does well. Sure, we’ve hit more than we’ve missed, but I’m more aligned with the mindset of “let’s see if he can keep it up and show he actually is an NHLer”. Gourde did it, and I was just as skeptical with him last season.

I’m not doubting Peca, but I’m not about to crown him an NHLer just yet. Given that Palat will be sidelined until at least March that will give us plenty of time to gauge Peca and come to a reasonable assessment of him. I’m optimistic, but I could easily see Yzerman and the coaching staff wanting a more veteran presence on the 3rd (or 4th) line. This also doesn’t take into account Lightning management ignoring the forward depth and going for defensive depth instead (which, in my opinion, is a more pressing need), but that’s a different conversation.

Geo: Back to trading for Karlsson, I mentioned Namestnikov because he’s a guy that I feel could be traded this summer anyway because of the potential cost of his next contract with this big break out year. If Yzerman could somehow structure a package around him for Karlsson like... let’s say Karlsson for Namestnikov, Raddysh, Hajek, a 1st and a conditional 1st if he’s re-signed. That’s a roster player that can play left wing or center right now for them, a top-six forward prospect, a top 4 defenseman prospect, and possibly two first rounders

You add in the little extra bit of prospect value because of the lower value of Namestnikov vs. Point or Sergachev.

Matt: The biggest question around a Namestnikov package: is that enough for Erik Karlsson? We don’t know what Raddysh or Hajek will become. They’re both second-round picks, show promise, and are still growing. Sure, we could sell high on them, but I don’t think it’s enough for Ottawa to bite. The Senators (if they’re smart) would want (at a minimum) an impact player immediately. Does Namestnikov bring that? Possibly. Do Raddysh and Hajek? Unknown. This doesn’t take into account Ottawa’s record of wheeling and dealing (it’s poor), and that is the only silver lining to this—Ottawa’s ineptitude.

Then again, there is also another mindset I haven’t taken into account—future. If, and I stress that “if” as hard as I possibly can, Ottawa trades Karlsson then management needs to go all in on a rebuild. That means Karlsson, Stone, Duchene, Hoffman all need to be shipped for young assets. If that was the mindset they chose I could see them taking a Namestnikov package. Conversely, it’s Ottawa and their management and ownership both seem to have their heads in the sand pertaining to the actual skill level of their team.

So... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯