NHL Rumors: Latest Buzz on Possible Erik Karlsson Trade, James Neal and More

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2018

After the John Tavares signing, Erik Karlsson may take center stage during the NHL's offseason.
After the John Tavares signing, Erik Karlsson may take center stage during the NHL's offseason.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

The Toronto Maple Leafs got their man when John Tavares decided to sign a free-agent contract with his hometown team Sunday.

The 27-year-old, who interviewed five other teams besides the Maple Leafs—including the New York Islanders, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning—signed a seven-year, $77 million deal.

It's clearly a huge move for the Maple Leafs, who are hoping to go from first-round playoff losers to legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. While that remains to be seen, they are clearly a stronger team after signing Tavares than they were prior to the momentous deal.

After the NHL was waiting for Tavares to make a decision, the biggest question may be what happens to Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson in the coming weeks.

Karlsson is under contract to the troubled Senators for the 2018-19 season, but he is scheduled to be a free agent at this time next year.

The Senators do not appear to have much of a chance of becoming a playoff team, and general manager Pierre Dorion may help his team quite a bit by trading his superstar defenseman rather than keeping him in the fold and hoping for a miracle season.

If he needed any proof, he could take a look at the Islanders, who didn't trade Tavares before the start of the season or the trade deadline and have nothing to show for it.

TSN insider Bob McKenzie tweeted that calls are starting to come in on Karlsson.

According to McKenzie, some of the teams calling may be prepared to take high-price forward Bobby Ryan off the Sens' hands, and that would also be a good move for the team's future.

David Pagnotta, the editor of The Fourth Period, identified the Vegas Golden Knights and the New York Rangers as two of the teams interested in Karlsson. He also noted at least one other team is interested in his services.

Dorion said the team has offered Karlsson a new contract, per Mike Johnston of Sportsnet, but he did not reveal the terms of the contract or the 28-year-old's reaction to the offer.

The Golden Knights signed Paul Stastny to a three-year, $19.5-million contract Sunday, and he should be a solid addition because of his toughness and ability to establish position up front.

However, one key member of the 2017-18 Golden Knights remains unsigned. Forward James Neal is still available, and while Vegas remains interested in him, according to McKenzie, there are no guarantees he will stay with the team.

Neal was reportedly close to a deal with the Calgary Flames after negotiating all night, per McKenzie. The deal is likely to be in the five-year range at a value of more than $5 million per year.

Neal scored 25 goals and 19 assists with the Knights last season, and he added six goals and five assists during the impressive Vegas postseason run to the Stanley Cup Final.

The 30-year-old winger has scored 20 goals or more in all of his 11 NHL seasons, and he had a career-high 40 goals with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2011-12