Many fans assume that it’s up to Eugene Melnyk whether Erik Karlsson will remain a member of the Ottawa Senators beyond this season. But it’s mostly Karlsson’s decision.
As an elite player, Karlsson will have many teams willing to pay him at the top of the salary scale. So even if Melnyk and the Senators offer him a long-term deal at the salary he wants, Karlsson won’t necessarily accept it. If he’s decided he doesn’t want to stay in Ottawa, for whatever personal or professional reasons he may have, then he’ll simply decline the offer and wait to see what happens. And the most likely scenario if he refuses a deal is that he’ll be traded before the next season begins.
The behaviour of both the team and Karlsson seems to be pointing in that direction. Indeed, when Karlsson took a souvenir from the Senators’ final home game of the regular season, that was the strongest indication so far that he thinks he won’t be back. And if that’s how Karlsson looks at it, there isn’t much reason for the fans to believe or hope for a different outcome.