I’ll make the full disclaimer before you read any more of this article, there is absolutely no indication that Shayne Gostisbehere is on the trading block. There was, however, a tweet from Bill Meltzer today that mentioned Ottawa would probably looking for a Ghost-esque defenseman on top of prospects and picks. For sake of clarity, I’ll leave the prospects and picks out of this, but would swapping Ghost for Karlsson be worth it?
Let’s take a look.
From a Skill Standpoint
There isn’t much of an argument when it comes to Erik Karlsson’s skill level. He is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best, defenseman in the NHL. He’s well established at driving play and has been a consistent 60+ point guy for several years at this point.
Now, on to the Ghost. Gostisbehere roared on to the scene in 2015 and took the Flyers by storm, setting the NHL record for longest point streak by a rookie defenseman. He’s become one of the best offensive defensemen that Philadelphia has seen in a very long time. On top of that, he has drastically improved the defensive side of things since coming into the league a little over 2 years ago.
Both guys play a very similar style of hockey. That being said, from a points standpoint, Gostisbehere was actually right on par pointwise with Karlsson this past season. Now, of course, Karlsson was playing for a team that was a complete dumpster fire, whereas Gostisbehere ended up in the playoffs.
Both guys are extremely skilled players, but from a head-to-head standpoint, Karlsson is the clear cut winner here. He is an established defenseman and has a consistent history of producing, driving play, and being a top guy for his team.
But skill isn’t everything.
All Things Considered
Today’s NHL isn’t just about skill, in fact, teams who win know how to balance skill and cap-hits.
If the Flyers were to trade for Erik Karlsson, they would likely have to eventually sign him to a deal that nets a cap hit somewhere around $10 million for the next 7-8 years. That is a lot to stomach for a team that is finally relieving the pressure on years of salary cap mismanagement. Of course, if Karlsson were to help lead the Flyers to a cup, that point becomes irrelevant, but far too often these large contracts become a drag on a team. Just look at the situation unfolding in Montreal with Shea Weber.
In the Flyers situation, the issue isn’t so much about taking on Karlsson’s contract as it would be losing Gostisbehere’s contract.
Assuming Gostisbehere continues producing and improving at the clip he is (which is a realistic assumption), the Flyers have an absolute steal with him at a cap hit of $4.5 million. It’s entirely possible that Gostisbehere could match Karlsson’s production over the next few years with less than half of the cap hit the Senators star carries around.
Adding Karlsson to the mix while the Flyers have Gostisbehere at that price would create a lethal defense, especially when guys like Sanheim and Myers eventually see the big club. But trading away Gostisbehere to pick up a guy like Karlsson might end up being more of an even swap than it appears, especially when the cap hits are taken into account.
Erik Karlsson would look mighty good in the Orange and Black, but it certainly shouldn’t be at the expense of losing a guy like Shayne Gostisbehere.