By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Boston Bruins may not even be trying to trade for Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson themselves. But where he ends up will have the kind of far-reaching implications that would come with any player of his caliber switching jerseys. Unfortunately, for the Bruins, Karlsson's next team could keep him within the Atlantic Division, but with a top contender - so his movement is well worth monitoring in Boston.
Rampant reports on Thursday evening suggested that the two-time Norris Trophy-winning Karlsson would be headed to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and even that a deal was imminent. The same team that already has Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov, dispatched of the Bruins in five games during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and just re-upped stalwart blue liner Ryan McDonagh for seven years, would be adding arguably an even better player than all of them. But even though TSN's Shawn Simpson erroneously reported that Karlsson-to-Tampa was a done deal, that appears to be far from the case to this point.
In fact, the Dallas Stars could be particularly throwing a wrench into Tampa's plans. Sportsnet's John Shannon tweeted on Friday that "there is still a belief" that Dallas, formerly one of the top contenders to sign John Tavares before he joined the Toronto Maple Leafs, "has a chance" to land Karlsson. However, The Athletic's Sean Shapiro is reporting that the Stars, while interested, don't want to give up top defensive prospect Miro Heiskanen.
For the uninitiated, Heiskanen was the third overall pick in the 2017 draft and considered one of the top defensive prospects in the league. He's essentially the Stars' version of Charlie McAvoy (when he was entering the league), so that should tell you how far away the B's would be in making a Karlsson deal happen, anyway.
The Bruins may have to make a move for a significant piece at some point, whether it's for Karlsson or anyone else. Even if all of their top prospects pan out, there won't be room for everyone. Don Sweeney is eventually going to have to identify which young pieces he wants to lock up long-term along with (presumably) McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk, and which ones he'd prefer to spin off for established pieces that can markedly improve the top of the roster.
Dallas may make life easier for Boston if they can swoop in for Karlsson and keep him out of Tampa. But it also wouldn't change the Bruins' inherent need for improvement if they want to better compete with Tampa (and, likely, Toronto) in the division and the first two rounds of the playoffs for the foreseeable future. Those improvements could still come internally, but they'll have to happen rather quickly.
For now, the hope is that problems aren't compounded, and Karlsson ends up shipped off to the Lone Star State. As an opponent, Tampa is already tough enough.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].