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Clearing Up Zibanejad Confusion and Erik Karlsson's Payday

September 15, 2011, 2:45 PM ET [ Comments]
Travis Yost
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In Wednesday's blog, I wrote a piece about the potential of Mika Zibanejad to steal an NHL roster spot right out of camp. Obviously, it's a hot-button issue that's seen both sides profess their arguments loud and clear.

Would playing him at the highest level of competition be beneficial to his development? Or, would another year away from the National Hockey League do more good than anything else?

It's a legitimate question, and going back in history doesn't seem to provide us with much of an answer. For every rookie that's come out and tore the NHL to shreds at a ridiculous young age(e.g. Jeff Skinner), there's another example of a player failing to live up to the hype.

Of course, because it's September and everyone's getting antsy over the return of hockey, another side debate arose; one that caught my attention early. For whatever reason, there seemed to be a foregone conclusion that should Mika Zibanejad fail to make the Ottawa Senators out of camp, he'd automatically have to head back to the SEL.

As far as I understand, that's actually the plan. Whether or not Zibanejad gets a brief look or is sent away early, he'll almost undoubtedly end up back with Djurgården, as he's under contract there. And, since that's what Zibanejad desires, the front office has essentially already agreed to it as an alternative.

But, let's be clear - Zibanejad isn't an absolute lock to head back overseas by the legal sense of the word. In fact, he very well could end up in the AHL(legally speaking), even if the potential for it is slim and none.

The broadcasting team at the Rookie Camp spoke of it as a this-or-that, as is local media around the city. What they're ignoring is that although Zibanejad's locked into a deal, he can legally terminate his contract in the SEL and bide his time in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators.

Is it likely? Again, not really. But the misconception that there's only two cities Zibanejad can be seen in next year is just that - a misconception. As SEL guru Bill Meltzer put it:

The AHL age rule does not apply for European club team affiliated players, and he would not be in breach of contract with DIF *if* he has followed the procedure for terminating it.

What's the point of all this? Well, I'm not sure. It just made for an interesting debate in the blog yesterday and I think it was worth addressing.

An interesting scenario: What if Zibanejad stays on the NHL roster early, exercises his NHL out-clause from the SEL contract, and then is moved to the AHL within nine games? Or, what if Zibanejad exercises his NHL out-clause, is temporarily kept with the AHL affiliate, and is used as the first call-up in the regular season?


Somewhere, Erik Karlsson is smiling. The kid's flashy and prominent on the ice, but outside of the rink, he's as savvy as they come.

And, he has to know what's going on around the league. You know, like Tyler Myers getting a first-year signing bonus of $10M, and in total, a seven-year, $38M deal.

Or, in Winnipeg, where Zach Bogosian just inked a two-year deal worth $5M.

Meanwhile, talented players like Luke Schenn and Drew Doughty - definitive comparables by any stretch of the word - are on the verge of getting a monstrous contract. Schenn's not a flashy player like Karlsson, but he's expected to clock in at over $3M per. Doughty, the ideal two-way blue liner, wants Anze Kopitar money. He won't get it, but don't be surprised when his number per is among the hightest in the National Hockey League.

Around North America, young top-four defensemen are getting paid left and right. Should Erik Karlsson have another outstanding season, especially with regards to point production, he's going to get paid in a similar manner.

So, to answer the common question of what the Ottawa Senators are doing with all of that cap room - well, you now have your answer.

The front office is playing it smart, knowing full well that they've got to hand out a number of deals next off-season. At the top of the list is RFA Erik Karlsson, who's going to command quite the number to stay with the team that drafted him 15th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

At the negotiating table, it's all about bargaining and leverage. Right now, Erik Karlsson has all of it. He's one of the most hyped young stars in the league, and rightfully so. He's a game-changer on the back end. And most of all, he's becoming a face of the franchise, as the Ottawa Senators begin to move on from long-tenured captain Daniel Alfredsson.

A poor season could shift favor back the way of Ottawa. But, as we've come to learn with the young Swede, that's probably not a realistic outcome.

To Erik Karlsson: I know you walked into the gym with a newfound swagger today. Enjoy it - your day is coming.


Side note: I know Terry Pegula loves to spend, but does he even negotiate, or hand around blank checks and tell players to fill in what they think they're worth? Myers is a fantastic player who has already proven his role as a top-four player. Yet, the sample size just isn't there, and this is now the second(arguably third) player the Sabres FO is paying somewhat on potential and forecasting.

It's a risk-reward scenario, and an intriguing one at that. Should it pan out, it's a steal. If it doesn't? The team's stuck with a sizable contract.


Thanks for reading!
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