In our first installment of the Trade Deadline Cheat Sheets, we take a look at the Atlantic Division. We’ll take a common sense approach in reviewing each team in the division. Are they going to be a buyer or seller? Do they have cap space? What holes do they need to fill? Is management working with a lower budget mandated by ownership? Do they have assets in their pipeline?
All of these things go into any potential trades at the deadline. To make a trade, you have to have the necessary assets, salary cap space and NEED at the position where a player is available. These cheat sheets are not so serve as fuel for the rumor mongers. No, these are just here to give you some idea of the position of every team in the NHL before the trade deadline and going forward.
Each day this week, we’ll take a look at another division in preparation for the NHL Trade Deadline on March 3. Remember, if you hear something—don’t believe it until you hear it from a reputable source! Here are some things to think about when you hear about a breaking NHL trade.
New Jersey Devils
It’s pretty safe to say that the Devils are focused on winning—and winning NOW. Do you need proof? It is spelled: I-L-Y-A, speaks Russian and should make their power play a little more dangerous. Whether New Jersey is able to re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk or not, as it stands today he’s an incredibly expensive rental player.But even after the Kovalchuk addition, the Devils still have plenty of space under the salary cap to add a few players. Lou Lamoriello can add players that make up to $10.6 million for the year and they’ll still be under the cap. He’s been clear that he’s in the market for another forward or defenseman. After trading away Johnny Oduya and Niclas Bergfors, the Devils still have relatively few assets in their system that would be desirable to other teams. Other teams would love to get their hands on Swedish 1st round picks Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson—but aside from draft picks, teams rebuilding won’t find much else in the cupboard.
Something to keep in mind is that the Devils are going to have two HUGE additions to their team without making a move. David Clarkson has missed 36 of the last 38 games will make his return after the Olympic break. Likewise, Paul Martin will return after 52 games from his broken arm. By the way, was that the longest 4-6 weeks in the HISTORY of the NHL or what? Regardless, those are two HUGE additions for New Jersey without Lamoriello even picking up the phone.
Teams that are contenders and are defending the Stanley Cup do not rebuild. But as far as salary cap space is concerned, they’re in the bottom third in the league. So what can they do?
First things first: The Penguins are $735,000 under the salary cap. For all of us average hockey fans, that means they can sign someone that makes about $3.5 million for the season without giving up anyone from their current roster. But then again, with how their wingers have been playing as of late—trading one of them away might not be the worst thing in the world.
Their ineffectiveness on the power play leads one to believe that they could use some wing help with the man advantage. With the return of Sergei Gonchar, they have looked much better—but it doesn’t change the fact that they lack some serious scoring punch on the wings. Rumors say that they’re interested in Ray Whitney from the Carolina Hurricanes, but reports also say that he requires a contract extension before he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause.
As far as assets, it’s a tricky situation. On the current roster, Ruslan Fedotenko has been underwhelming. Eric Tangradi (who was acquired in last year’s Ryan Whitney trade) and Simon Despres are the high-end prospects that could bring a decent return to a team that is rebuilding. To put it gently, there’s not a ton of depth in the system.
Draft picks can be equally tricky. General Manager Ray Shero has made it clear that he doesn’t want to part with yet another draft pick. Considering they didn’t have a selection until the 4th round in 2008 and they traded their 2007 pick for half a season of Marian Hossa, their pipeline isn’t nearly as stocked as management would like it to be. While they want to win on the ice in May and June, they also want to piece back together the young talent within the organization.
There’s no question that the Penguins would be in the market for a winger or defensive defenseman, but if they’re not willing to part with draft picks, what do they have to offer?
It seems like every single big name that is available is somehow linked to the Philadelphia Flyers. Here are a few quick hints to shoot down most of those rumors: the Flyers are currently OVER the cap and Danny Briere, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen all have some sort of no-movement clause. Let’s get this straight: they actually have to shave money from their payroll anyway AND their highest paid players can’t be traded. How does that work exactly?
Just about every rumor that is started around the Flyers involves Jeff Carter, James Van Riemsdyk, Matt Carle or Claude Giroux. Why is that? Because they’re the best players the Flyers have, make the most money and CAN be traded. Of course they are going to be mentioned in trade talks.
The problem with these rumors is that each and every one of these players has been important to the Flyers success this season. Unless they were to acquire a serious difference-maker, there’s no reason to think these key-cogs will be moved. Instead, they might look to make smaller trades with their 3rd or 4th line guys. But with the lack of cap space, don’t expect any big name players in return. Remember, they actually have to shave cap space off before they can even think of acquiring a player.
A current Flyer for a pick wouldn’t be surprising at all. But if they could figure out a way to acquire a little more stability in goal, they’d do it in a New York minute. Or maybe a Long Island minute.
New York Rangers
They’re always open for business, but they are up against the cap. Any trade would have to include players going the other way—but whom? Chris Drury, Sean Avery, Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival all have some type of no-movement clause in their contract. The only other serious contract that would even be available would be recently acquired Olli Jokinen. Ryan Callahan or Brandon Dubinsky have sizable salaries, but trading either of those young guys would be stupid on multiple levels as they’ve been two of their best players AND they’re young. The Rangers would KILL to be able to get rid of Donald Brashear, but they STILL could only acquire a player that makes LESS than $2 million this season.
If there was EVER a team that wished they could hit the RESET button, it would the Rangers. Big contracts that can’t move are hanging around Glen Sather’s neck like a noose the fans would like to hang him with. They would like to bring in a forward that could help them improve on their 20th-ranked offense, but they’ll have to be incredibly creative if they want to bring in anyone that can make a difference.
New York Islanders
If the salary cap were the only concern, then the Islanders would be sitting pretty. As a team with almost $18 million under the salary cap, they could hypothetically fit the entire Devils and Ducks teams and still have a few bucks left for George Wang to take Kate Murray to Starbucks. But alas, that’s not the world that we live in. Forget the salary cap—Garth Snow is dealing with a budget that is much closer to the salary floor.
Instead, the team with the most room under the salary cap will probably be a team that is busy selling off assets at the trade deadline. Their strong start was followed up with a slumping 2010 that has them in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. Fans on Long Island are going to have a hard time accepting another March fire sale because they’re only 6 points out of the last playoff spot. But the truth is that they have 5 teams to jump and they have been slumping in a bad way as of late. Unfortunately, it might be another season.
Since the day Martin Biron was signed in the offseason, there has been speculation that the Islanders only signed 3 goaltenders so they could get an asset in return on March 3rd. Biron is signed to a reasonable contract ($1.4 million) and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. For a team that is looking for a strict rental as a backup, he’s a serious option. But an option that would bring a greater return would be the bargain Dwayne Roloson. He’s signed through the end of NEXT season and has shown that he’s still capable of being a legitimate #1 goaltender in the NHL. Either way, if Garth Snow plays his cards right, one of these guys will be packing their bags on March 3rd.
The rest of the roster is littered with players that are free agents at the end of the season. Unrestricted free agents include Doug Weight, Jon Sim, Richard Park, Tim Jackman; as well as defensemen Andy Sutton and Freddy Meyer. Not only that, they have restricted free agents Matt Moulson, Sean Bergenheim, Rob Schremp and Jeff Tambellini to deal with at the season’s end, too. With all of those players without contracts at the end of the season, it’s safe to assume that the contenders will be sniffing around for availability.