NHL Trade Rumors: Top Buzz on Erik Karlsson and More as 2018 Deadline Approaches

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2018

Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson prepares for a face-off during an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Several significant deals have been struck ahead of Monday's NHL trade deadline, but there are still plenty of big names making the rounds on the rumor mill.

With both the Eastern and Western Conference playoff pictures coming into focus more with each passing day, there is a defined list of buyers and sellers. That figures to go a long way toward generating more trade activity in the coming days.

As the deadline draws closer, here is a rundown of the latest rumors surrounding the top players who could be on the move.


Erik Karlsson

Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson has been among the NHL's premier offensive blueliners throughout his career, but with the Sens struggling this season, there is a distinct possibility he could be traded.

According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, Ottawa is engaged in trade discussions with "more than a half-dozen" teams regarding Karlsson.

The 27-year-old is in the midst of his ninth NHL season, and although his production is down, he would still provide a massive offensive boost to any defense corps.

In 55 games, Karlsson has registered five goals and 37 assists for 42 points to go along with a minus-29 rating, which is his worst mark since 2010-11.

While the Ottawa captain's defensive struggles are somewhat disconcerting, much of it can be attributed to his team's major step back in 2017-18.

Karlsson's previous two seasons were among his best in the NHL. The Swede set a career high with 82 points in 2015-16. He followed that up with 71 points, as well as 18 points in 19 playoff games as the Sens came within a goal of the Stanley Cup Final.

Since the Swede can become a free agent after next season, trading him now may be Ottawa's best course of action if it doesn't believe he will sign a long-term contract with the franchise.

It isn't often a two-time Norris Trophy winner becomes available in his prime, which is why there figures to be a long line of teams willing to part with a king's ransom to bring him in.

While trading Karlsson may be viewed as a rebuilding move by some, the package of picks and players Ottawa could acquire in such a deal should accelerate that process significantly.


Ryan McDonagh

Like the Senators, the New York Rangers are having a surprisingly tough year. That could lead to them parting with a marquee defenseman.

Per TSN's Darren Dreger, the Toronto Maple Leafs have expressed interest in acquiring Ryan McDonagh from the Blueshirts.

Few rearguards have been more consistent than McDonagh since his first full NHL season in 2011-12. With two goals and 24 assists, he is well on his way to his fifth consecutive season with at least 30 points.

McDonagh also boasts a plus-seven rating despite the fact the Rangers are last in the Metropolitan Division. He has never come close to posting a minus rating his career, and he has been a plus-20 or better on four occasions, including every season from 2014-15 through 2016-17.

The 28-year-old is undoubtedly among the most complete defensemen in the game, but with big money committed to Kevin Shattenkirk and Marc Staal moving forward, McDonagh may not be long for the Big Apple.

Like Karlsson, New York's captain came become a free agent after next season, and now is the height of his value.

The Leafs have one of the NHL's most talented forward groups, but their defense corps leaves something to be desired beyond Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev.

McDonagh would give them an unquestioned No. 1 stud on the blue line, and he would bolster the Maple Leafs' status as a top contender in the Eastern Conference.

The price would be steep, but it may be worth it for a Toronto team that is loaded with young stars.


Artem Anisimov

Skilled centers with size are always at a premium around the trade deadline, and Artem Anisimov of the Chicago Blackhawks fits that bill.

According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the Columbus Blue Jackets have inquired about potentially trading for the Russian forward.

Anisimov played for the Jackets from 2012-13 through 2014-15 before getting traded to Chicago in a deal for Brandon Saad, who was dealt back to Chicago last summer.

The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets are frequent trade partners, and another swap between them would make sense given Columbus is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race and Chicago is last in the Central Division.

Anisimov is having a down year for the struggling Blackhawks, with 16 goals and seven assists for 23 points to go along with a minus-seven rating.

The two previous seasons were among Anisimov's best, as he scored at least 20 goals and topped 40 points in each campaign.

While he would be a strong addition for Columbus, Friedman has heard Chicago would prefer to keep Anisimov since he is signed through 2020-21 at a reasonable price ($4.55 million cap hit) and is only 29.

If the Blue Jackets do acquire him, though, they would have the luxury of potentially reuniting him with former Blackhawks teammate Artemi Panarin.

Columbus isn't scoring at anywhere near the same clip it did last season—they are on pace for around 215 after tallying 249 last term—but Anisimov would be a strong supporting piece capable of boosting those around him en route to a potential playoff spot.


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