The Ottawa Senators on Tuesday made Erik Karlsson one of the ten best paid defensemen in the entire NHL. His salary will be higher than Zdeno Chara’s and tied with Drew Doughty’s. Those are two of the four best defensemen in the NHL. Chara has of course won a Norris Trophy, and the Stanley Cup and been a huge minute eater for well over a decade. He’s also the captain of his team. Drew Doughty wears an A, plays in all situations, hits, scores and can be relied upon night in and night out. Unlike Karlsson, his team has actually won series in the playoffs, and yeah he’s a touch more likely to get shift starts outside the offensive zone.
Shockingly, and this owing to the unfair advantage Doughty, Weber, Suter, Girardi, Chara all have in actually being useful defensively, every one of these guys is way more likely to start in their own defensive zone or center ice. It is really unfair that their coaches trust them. Shameful in fact that a defenseman should play defense. Oddly there are teams and players and gosh even fans who think that defensemen playing defense is important.
Worst of all, this isn’t one of those situations where you can blame the general manager and expect them to be fired in the next seventy two hours. Bryan Murray has actually done a pretty good job over the last two or three years. Unfortunately when your owner tells the world you have a player who will go down as one of the greatest defensemen of all time you have a problem. More than a problem, you’re shackled to the stupidity. If someone sensible had been nearby and tossed Eugene Melnyk into a mental institution for a long weekend immediately after that statement this might have been avoided. Now just before this deal is inked Melnyk is crying poor mouth. It might have something to do with the Canadian government’s kicking around plans to stop certain subsidies that aid small market teams.
Realistically, given his scoring prowess, youth and marketability a three year contract with a four and a half million dollar contract would be the perfect deal. It puts Karlsson in company with defensemen like Kevin Bieksa who’s team actually wins rounds in the playoffs and who personally produces points at or above his regular season rate and does more besides. Also in that neck of the woods is Keith Yandle, who is better defensively, on a small market team as well and doesn’t have quite as much offensive potential to work with. Additionally neither of these players has been called out by NHL officials for diving in the middle of a season.
Contracts like this that grossly distort player value are bad for the team, bad for the market, and bad for the NHL as a whole. The Senators won’t be fined for this contract, even though it is far more damaging to the league than original Ilya Kovalchuk contract with the New Jersey Devils. They will however be handicapped by an anchor as soon as his scoring starts to taper off a la Vincent Lecavalier. This of course on a Canadian team that hasn’t hit 100% of home seat sales in two of the last three seasons.