Karlsson big deal for Senators

Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson during practice at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ont., April 20,...

Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson during practice at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ont., April 20, 2012. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:23 PM ET

OTTAWA - There have been no formal contract talks between the Senators and defenceman Erik Karlsson.

The calender has turned to June, which means the Senatorsí top blueliner is now less than a month away from becoming a restricted free agent on July 1 and the start of camp is more than three months away.

So there isnít any urgency to get a deal done, but league sources told the Sun the Senators might be in no hurry for heated talks.

With the CBA between the players and NHL set to expire Sept. 15 and discussions expected to begin with the NHLPA early next month, there is going to be plenty on the table to discuss in a new deal.

Sources say the NHL might try to negotiate a salary cap for players coming out of entry-level deals in the new CBA. Whether it will happen is a longshot, but itís something thatís being bandied about.

While itís doubtful those kinds of restrictions would fly with the union, a cap would prevent the type of eight-year, $56-million deal that Kings defenceman Drew Doughty signed last fall to set the marketplace.

Karlsson, the NHLís top-scoring defenceman with 78 points this season, is expected to shoot for the moon in contract talks.

The best bet for the Senators and Karlsson is to get a deal done soon. GM Bryan Murray didnít seem concerned about getting a contract completed in April and talks with agent Craig Oster have been informal but cordial.

Karlsson, 21, told Sportsnet Radio in Toronto Friday morning he wants to be a contributor at both ends of the ice and heís not just going to be a one-hit wonder.

ďMy main priority has always been to be more of an all-around player,Ē said Karlsson. ďI want to play in situations where the game is on the line and I want to be able to play both defensively and offensively. My defensive game is something I need to improve on to be an elite player and itís something Iím going to have to keep working on in every game and every day.

ďCraig Anderson played great for us this year and he probably bailed me out a couple of times.Ē

The first step by the Senators in negotiations is to get a qualifying offer in place. That is due June 25 (three days after the NHL draft in Pittsburgh), but there is some risk involved if a contract isnít done by then.

By then, Karlsson will know if heís beaten out finalists Shea Weber (Nashville) and Zdeno Chara (Boston) for the Norris Trophy as the leagueís top defenceman. If Karlsson wins the award, his price is going to go up.

Under the current CBA, restricted free agents are allowed to open talks with other teams to see if they can get an offer sheet in place once the qualifying offers have been filed.

Karlsson could be attractive on the Group II market. Teams know the Senators wonít spend to the cap and Ottawa will match any offer sheet, but it doesnít mean opponents wouldnít want to cause the club grief.

There isnít much danger the Senators will lose Karlsson as an RFA, but concern will exist if this doesnít get settled and the club goes through a summer of uncertainty while waiting for a new CBA.

After all, thatís not going to be an easy negotiation, either.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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