The Erik Karlsson speculation just won't go away.
The constant speculation is a given, considering players of Karlsson's ilk - Senators head coach Guy Boucher recently called him the best player in the world - are rarely traded, and when the opportunity arises, suitors line up to inquire.
With that in mind, here are three teams that could put together the necessary pieces to acquire the superstar blue-liner:
Luck fell into the Stars' hands at last year's draft lottery, when the club moved up from the eighth overall selection and into the top three, granting Dallas the rights to highly touted Finnish defenseman Miro Heiskanen.
He's a prime piece for the Stars, but one that won't pay immediate dividends for a team ready to compete for the Stanley Cup. Dallas is under the gun to win with its current lineup intact, especially with key players Tyler Seguin and former Senators captain Jason Spezza only signed through next season. Karlsson's current agreement carries the same term.
While the Stars already have their own top-flight, right-shot defenseman in John Klingberg capable of holding down top-pairing duties, there's no saying the Stars couldn't have Klingberg and Karlsson on separate duos, capable of eating 50 minutes a night.
As for Heiskanen, he's impressed in Finland's top league this year, where he's picked up 13 points in 19 games - doing so as an 18-year-old playing amongst men. While Heiskanen would be a difficult piece for the Stars to part with, there is a replacement in the pipeline in 22-year-old Julius Honka.
Is Heiskanen enough to make a deal? Not likely, but the two sides could talk once Dallas offered up its 2018 first-rounder, a young roster player like Radek Faksa, and possibly another premium prospect, like goaltender Jake Oettinger.
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli took heat when he traded former top pick Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson, and he hasn't fared much better from the Ryan Strome trade, which came at the cost of Jordan Eberle.
But the chance to add a premium blue-liner like Karlsson gives Chiarelli enough reason to reach back into his bag of tricks. Any deal is sure to have the Senators asking for a high-end defender in return, and the Oilers could begin the discussions with fellow Swedish defenseman Oscar Klefbom.
As for the Senators, the chance to add another top pick would be intriguing. Ottawa's recent slide has seen its upcoming first-round pick jump to third overall if the draft were held today. The Senators previously moved their pick to the Colorado Avalanche in the Matt Duchene deal, but have an option to defer it to 2018 if it falls in the top 10.
As of today, Ottawa's first-round pick sits just one spot ahead of Edmonton's. If the Senators held both selections, they would have two shots at adding top talents on the draft floor, like forwards Brady Tkachuk or Filip Zadina, or a budding blue-liner in Adam Boqvist.
Packaging Klefbom and a first-rounder leaves the Senators banking on the future, meaning the team would likely require one other current piece. Would center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins be too steep an ask, given Karlsson would add to a contending core of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Cam Talbot?
Much like the Stars, the Flyers benefited from lottery balls, as they climbed from the 13th pick and into the top two selections at last year's draft.
That allowed Philadelphia to take Nolan Patrick with the second overall pick, a surprise get for a team that finished closer to the playoffs than it did to the basement. Could that leave open the possibility for a quick flip of Patrick?
The injury-riddled center has appeared in 20 games with Philadelphia this season, in which he's potted just six points. It's been a tough leap for Patrick, who was limited to 33 games in junior a year ago due to injury concerns, while he's already missed nine games this year with another ailment. Still, the potential is there - Patrick is just two years removed from a 102-point season in the WHL.
To add to the mix, the Flyers could part with a piece from their depth of riches on the blue line. Young defenders Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov should be untouchable, but a realistic option could be Robert Hagg in order to help a Karlsson deal come to fruition and give the Flyers their best defenseman since the days of Eric Desjardins.
To complete the package, the Senators would likely look for a top draft choice. Fortunately, the Flyers have two of those - their own, and the first-round pick returned from the St. Louis Blues for Brayden Schenn.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)
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