A year ago, the Ottawa Senators came within one overtime of making the Stanley Cup Final. Captain Erik Karlsson played on one good leg, putting up 18 points to lead the Senators on the verge of its second Stanley Cup appearance. They lost Game Seven in sudden death to the Penguins on Chris Kunitz’ overtime goal. Pittsburgh would repeat as champs.
A year later, a disastrous season that saw them rank near the bottom of the league, continues to haunt them. It was already apparent that the Senators can’t afford to keep Karlsson. The 28-year old defenseman is a two-time Norris winner. Considered the game’s best at his position, he enters the final year of a deal that pays him $7.5 million with an average cap hit of $6.5 million. A bargain for someone of the Swede’s unique blend of skating, offense and defense. There’s no better blueliner in transition.
It’s astonishing that he returned early to Ottawa in ’17-18. He was able to skate in 71 games, totaling nine goals, 53 assists, and 62 points. His defense struggled on a bad team, finishing minus-25. Though some of it can be attributed to him not being totally healthy.
Who knew about the odd relationship between Karlsson’s wife Melinda and teammate Hoffman’s fiancé Monika? Melinda recently filed a order of protection against Monika for harassment. A shocking news item that hit social media earlier this week.
It is crazy to think something of this magnitude could happen. Especially with key players on the same team, who were a huge part of Ottawa’s success in ’16-17. It’s very disturbing and sad. Now, the Senators must trade both their best player and a good finisher this summer.
Not surprisingly, rumors have circulated that Karlsson asked for a trade. Given the uneasiness of the situation, there’s no way he can return. Besides, following ’18-19, he’ll command a salary upwards of $10 million on the open market. Given the instability of the franchise due to horrible owner Eugene Melnyk, it makes sense for the Senators to get a good return for Karlsson now. He wasn’t even expected by some to last through the trade deadline. You have to think he’s a goner by the NHL Draft or on July 1.
As for Hoffman, he’s scored at least 22 goals or more over the last four seasons. He’s a good player capable of scoring 30 in the right situation. The 28-year old forward is signed for another two seasons with a AAV of $5.187 million. He’ll earn $5.65 million in ’18-19 and ’19-20. When he’s 30, Hoffman will be a unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020.
The question for the other 30 NHL general managers is what is Hoffman worth. He has baggage due to his longtime girlfriend, which is now public. It’s very ugly and can’t be easy for him. Is this really the kind of woman he wants to be with? His career is at risk. Especially if the allegations are true. Considering the support Karlsson’s wife Melinda received from former teammates’ girlfriends and spouses, it portrays a negative light on Hoffman’s girlfriend Monika.
With these unnecessary distractions entering the offseason, it won’t be easy for Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion. He’s also trying to find someone to take Bobby Ryan’s contract. There are four years left with an AAV of $7.25 million through 2022. Good luck with that.
There’s also the disturbing news on assistant GM Randy Lee. Lee is accused of sexually harassing a shuttle driver on May 30. He reportedly made lewd comments and rubbed the shoulders of a 19-year old male driver. He entered a plea of not guilty to a charge of second-degree harassment. A non-criminal charge. If found guilty, he faces a maximum of 15 days in jail and a $250 fine.
All these distractions make Ottawa a nightmare. They’re about to trade their best player. A great team guy and captain, who’s carried himself well. It’s going to be sad when he is gone. The Hoffman business between his girlfriend and Karlsson’s wife is despicable.
It’s a untenable situation. The question is how does it get resolved. We’re about to find out.