By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Are you ready for the NHL’s version of a high stakes poker game? Do you know when to call somebody’s bluff? What about making the decision to up the ante? Folding? Or, what about the ultimate gamble: going all-in?
The NHL’s 32 General Managers aren’t going to Las Vegas to play poker. However, they are going to be simulating this high pressure game on every phone call, email thread, text chain and in-person interaction they have during the course of the next week.
Next Monday, March 21st is the NHL’s annual Trade Deadline and with it often comes chaos to the ninth degree. The deadline is 3pm(ET) next Monday, but as is usually the case, some trades will get stuck in the league’s “queue” and not be announced until a couple hours later. So, really, 3pm is a bit of a hybrid deadline. But you get the point.
Getting back to the chaos…wait that’s right, we’re one week away and everything’s quiet. Too quiet perhaps. We know there won’t be radio silence for much longer. While we have a minute let’s look at a couple potential moves the Rangers, Islanders and Devils could make.
General Manager Chris Drury didn’t exactly endear himself to the team’s fan base with his off-season maneuvers. But now’s a chance for him to make up for that. With the Blueshirts currently sitting in third-place in the Metropolitan Division and 16-points clear of ninth seed Columbus, Drury has a couple different ways he can approach the deadline.
With more cap space than any other contender, the league’s likely Vezina Trophy winner in net, the reigning Norris Trophy winner on defense and multiple offensive weapons upfront, the Seventh Avenue Skaters look primed to make a deep run. The only thing holding them back is their lack of quality right-wings, a little more well placed grit and a third-pair defenseman.
Sure, those things sound like luxuries. But it’s the truly elite teams who make sure no area of weakness is left unaddressed.
With that in mind, here’s a couple possibilities.
The team’s pursuit of J.T. Miller looks dead to most. Could it be revived? Absolutely. But, what if, Drury called up Vancouver’s Jim Rutherford to inquire about right-winger Brock Boeser? The 25-year-old pending RFA appears to have a murky future in Vancouver. If Drury were to offer his counterpart a first-rounder, Vitali Kravtsov and Nils Lundkvist would that get the deal done? That might seem like a lot for a player who hasn’t lit up the scoresheet this year, but if you can get Boeser to agree to a team-friendly contract-extension (say in the ballpark of three-years/$18M (AAV of $6M)) then it should be worth the risk.
Okay, maybe Boeser isn’t for you. Would Drury call up Lou Lamoriello and try to swing a deal for pending UFA right-winger Cal Clutterbuck? Perhaps the answer is going after Arizona’s Phil Kessel?
On the other hand, maybe Drury decides this isn’t the year to push all his chips to the middle of the table. After all, the Blueshirts are still a year or so away from being true Stanley Cup contenders. The more prudent move might be to make a couple small deals to shore up the team’s bottom-six and third D-pair and then let the chips fall where they may.
With their chances of making the playoffs at 0.6% according to hockey-reference, GM Lou Lamoriello is likely to be focused on figuring out how to retool the team so it can compete again next year.
The problem is the Islanders don’t have much to offer another team. The last few seasons have seen the Isles swing for the fences and now their prospect pool and draft capital are depleted.
Would moving Cal Clutterbuck bring back much? Probably not. Do Josh Bailey or Kyle Palmieri have some hidden value on the trade market? Again, the answer’s probably not. Is it possible Scott Mayfield has to be sacrificed to help replenish the cupboards? Lamoriello didn’t like having to trade Devon Toews, but he did it because he knew he must.
I’d think trading Semyon Varlamov is a task best suited for the off-season when more teams will join the annual game of goalie roulette.
The Garden Staters are an interesting bunch. On one hand, they’re not making the playoffs and are in the middle of a rebuild, so why not sell? On the other hand, the Devils have slowly managed to acquire some potential core pieces and could be tempted to augment that core by adding talent with term.
New Jersey needs to solve its question in goal. Mackenzie Blackwood’s name has begun appearing in the rumor mill and with Nico Daws playing well the former may soon find himself on another team. If Daws is the answer, then that’s one thing taken care of. Although, the question of who backs him up still remains.
Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Dawson Mercer are probably the only untouchables on the team at the moment. With P.K. Subban’s contract up and the Devils acknowledging they aren’t going to re-sign him, could he be dealt to add some grit to the aforementioned quartet?
What about Ryan Graves? Could he be part of a deal that sees the Devils bring back a middle-six forward?
The clock is ticking and the seas are slowly beginning to churn.