By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
(Welcome to 98.5 The Sports Hub's The Weekend Wraparound -- or just The Wraparound, WW, Wrap, or whatever you care to call it. I'm not big on names. But here's what you should know about it: It's a new weekly column that will run every Saturday in addition to our complete coverage of the Boston Bruins, with or without ice available.)
OK, so it's not that I think that Erik Karlsson needs to go anywhere besides Tampa Bay for the sake of the Atlantic Division.
It's just that the last time I found myself rooting for the Dallas Stars this hard, Brett Hull's skate was in the crease.
There's just no other way around saying it: A trade that sends the Ottawa captain to Tampa Bay would screw the Bruins and make them a massive underdog to make it out of the first or second round. And I say that knowing full well that this was a Black and Gold team that finished just one win shy of the most points in the Eastern Conference a season ago, too.
First of all, we should acknowledge the fact that the Lightning don't even need Karlsson.
This is a team that's loaded with high-end, MVP-caliber talents -- Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, and Steven Stamkos may be the best one-two-three franchise pillars in hockey -- a strong supporting cast both young and old, and young building blocks like forward Brayden Point and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Bolts only bolstered their current window with a deadline deal that added forward J.T. Miller and defenseman Ryan McDonagh to the picture. Both Miller and McDonagh have since been signed to long-term deals, too, and looked primed to once again thrive in middle-of-the-lineup roles.
If healthy, they should be considered the favorites to win the East.
*A three-paragraph breather on why Karlsson is probably a lot better than you think (and why plus-minus is useless).*
As Karlsson talks intensify, you're going to hear this from those trying to undersell the impact of his move to a contender: He's overrated and is not a true defenseman. He's basically a slightly better, Swedish version of Torey Krug. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Karlsson is a downright incredible talent. This is the man that single-handedly carried the 2017 Ottawa Senators to within one overtime goal of a Stanley Cup Final appearance -- and on one ankle. He is a franchise-altering piece.
Even in a 'down year,' the 28-year-old still managed to contribute 62 points. It was his fifth straight season of at least 60 points. Oh, and Karlsson does play defense by the way. One of 120 NHL defensemen to log at least 100 minutes on the penalty kill last season, Karlsson ranked first in Corsi-For percentage (21.33 percent), was on the ice for just 40 high-danger chances against in a d-zone pressure cooker, and was victimized to a .798 save percentage from the goalies behind him all the while.
Despite this information (and more), people will surely point to his minus-25 rating to cement their opinion. But clinging to plus/minus in 2018 is like believing that goaltenders should remain upright at all times. It's downright archaic. Instead, consider this: Karlsson played for a team with the second-worst even-strength save percentage in all of hockey. The Senators were a dreadful team, and plus/minus is a dreadful stat. You get minuses for being on the ice for an empty-net goal against. You get minuses for a forward screwing up 45-feet away from you. It's a horrendously outdated stat that does little for anybody. Using plus/minus as a legitimate measuring stick for a player's worth leads you to ridiculous 'facts' that say Karlsson (minus-25) is not as strong an on-ice contributor as 'plus' players such as Jake Dotchin and Derek Forbort. It's asinine.
*Anyways, back to your regularly scheduled programming...*
And acquiring Karlsson would guarantee that the Bolts would have one of Hedman, McDonagh, and Karlsson on the ice at all times during the season. Can you even imagine having to gameplan for that kind of multi-dimensional threat, especially in a seven-game series? It's borderline impossible and would be unlike anything else. Keep in mind that the Bruins already have to worry about a Toronto pivot punch featuring Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Nazem Kadri back-to-back-to-back.
Given the (absurdly stupid) way the league has formatted their playoff brackets, too, not even the most optimistic season-ticket holder in the TD Garden balcony should feel legitimately inspired by the B's ability to match either three-headed monster. At least not as currently built, with the B's matching Tavares and a hypothetical Karlsson-to-Tampa trade with the free agent signings of John Moore, Joakim Nordstrom, and Chris Wagner. I mean, Tavares had more goals than the B's trio combined for last season, and Karlsson had more assists than the Moore-Nordstrom-Wagner trio had points a year ago.
The Bruins know those signings were not going to compete with what the Leafs did and/or what the Bolts might do.
In fact, it's no secret that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has positioned himself for a trade. But if the Atlantic arms race is truly on by way of a Karlsson move, Sweeney is going to have pull off his biggest whopper yet. And everybody knows it.
That's not exactly what the Bruins want to hear heading into a potential trade negotiation.
If the Blue Jackets decide to trade Artemi Panarin, it will be for a haul that helps the Jackets contend in the now. In other words, that's not coming cheap, so you can save your bundle-of-garbage proposals for another day. And if the Hurricanes decide to trade Jeff Skinner, which feels long overdue at this point, it doesn't seem like the Hurricanes need another expensive left-handed defenseman after signing Calvin de Haan to a four-year deal worth $18.2 million. Wayne Simmonds' availability on the trade market, meanwhile, seems to be in question depending on who you talk to. And if the Oilers' Milan Lucic at close to half price is considered one of the better options on the trade market, then the trade market stinks real bad.
It's enough to lead you to believe that the Bruins will instead hope that their own solutions come from within, and that they get some help from the outside when it comes to preventing the Atlantic Division from becoming an inescapable death march.
So, to quote Pantera: "Dallas! Stars! Dallas! Stars!"
Loose pucks: Why was John Moore eager to join the Bruins on a five-year deal? Well, it's in the family. Moore said that his grandfather was born and raised in Dorchester, and that translated to John's father, even though he grew up in Chicago. "I’ve always had a very deep appreciation for this franchise," Moore said of the Bruins. "You look from an outsider’s perspective, the culture, guys like [Patrice] Bergeron and [Zdeno] Chara. It’s just really exciting to join that."... Something lost in the shuffle of last week's free agency bonanza? Longtime Providence Bruins captain Tommy Cross left the organization to join the Columbus Blue Jackets organization on a two-way contract. Cross, a second-round pick of the Bruins back in 2007, leaves the P-Bruins with 364 games of hockey donning the Spoked-P. It's the most in franchise history... If the Bruins' trade pursuits go nowhere and they instead go free agent shopping, a name to watch could be Patrick Maroon. The Bruins were in on Maroon earlier this year, but were unwilling to pay what was a rather hefty asking price on the part of the Oilers prior to his trade to New Jersey. Maroon scored 17 goals and totaled 43 points in 74 games between Edmonton and the Devils last year.