Erik Karlsson’s still with the Ottawa Senators … for now

Erik Karlsson hasn’t bolted for the Tampa Bay Lightning or anywhere else for that matter.

While there was speculation Thursday night that Karlsson had been dealt to the Lightning, the 28-year-old remained the captain of the Ottawa Senators on Friday, so trade talk will continue until a deal is actually made.

Though many have tabbed the Lightning as the frontrunner because it has the assets to make the deal, the day passed by with no trade transaction and it was still anybody’s guess when Senators general manager Pierre Dorion might pull the trigger.

It’s believed the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars also remain interested in Karlsson, and the San Jose Sharks have also made calls to inquire.

Lightning officials are being aggressive because they feel Karlsson can put them over the top, but neither team can make this deal unless they get what they want and both sides are standing firm with their demand.

Other teams involved in discussions believe they still have shots at Karlsson and their minds won’t change until he’s dealt.

Karlsson reportedly spent Friday attending the wedding of former Senators defenceman Marc Methot outside of Ottawa.

Let’s face it, the Lightning has assets that would be attractive to the Senators, and TSN’s Darren Dreger reported late Thursday that Tampa Bay had made an attempt to get a third team involved, possibly sending Ryan Callahan back to the New York Rangers.

The word around the 31-team National Hockey League is that Lightning reps don’t feel at this point that the two sides are close to a deal, though that could always change.

Getting Callahan off the books would give the Lightning another $5.8 million in salary-cap space and the 33-year-old forward would likely welcome a move back to New York, but the Senators would still have to take on some salary in a deal.

The Bolts would also have to work out a contract extension with Karlsson. Since he apparently turned down the Senators’ offer of an eight-year deal worth more than $80 million, you’d have to think Tampa Bay would have to start negotiations at $11 million per season.

There’s little question that Tampa appears to be Karlsson’s destination of choice. All you have to do is look at pictures from NHL All-Star Game weekend in January, when he spent a lot of time with close friend Victor Hedman of the Lightning.

Just because Karlsson wants to go to the Lightning doesn’t mean the Senators have to give into his demands unless he won’t sign with anybody else, in which case Ottawa’s hands may be tied. Still, Karlsson has only submitted a list of 10 teams to which he can’t be dealt.

The Lightning made a pitch for centre John Tavares before he ended up signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent. The next biggest star player available is Karlsson, which is why the likes of Tampa Bay, Dallas and San Jose have turned their attention to him.

Still, there are a lot of moving parts, which is why no other team can really be ruled out of contention.

The Senators also have to determine if another team is willing to take on the contract of winger Bobby Ryan. He has a $7.25 million cap hit for the next four season, and it’s unlikely the Lightning would be able to take on that contract as part of a trade for Karlsson.

Perhaps Tampa is trying to get a third team involved to take on Ryan? Who knows?

Where people need to be careful is thinking the Senators are in some sort of hurry to deal Karlsson. There’s no reason for Ottawa to make this deal if the return isn’t right and it hasn’t been to this point.

In comparison, Dorion worked on the deal that brought Matt Duchene to the Senators last November for months before lining it up with the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators..

Karlsson is still under contract for one more season at $6.5 million. If he’s not dealt before training camp starts in September, he’ll have to report to Canadian Tire Centre.

The Senators are willing to be patient. A deal could happen, today, tomorrow, next week, next month, during training camp or just before the next NHL trade deadline in February. The situation is fluid and, judging by the amount of speculation that has gone nowhere, it’s unpredictable, and the Senators probably don’t want this situation to linger.

We’ll find out sooner or later if Karlsson is headed to Tampa or some other NHL destination, but patience needs to be a virtue.

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