While the World Cup of Hockey is leading the headlines, the NHL’s trade speculation hot stove has not completely been turned off. Teams have signed players to Professional tryouts, Kris Russell remains a free agent and there are still clear strengths and weaknesses on each team.
As the offseason winds down, it is important to remember that the New York Islanders acquired their top two defensemen in October of 2014. Trades do not stop happening once July passes, so there are still some transactions to be made. Let’s take a look at a few trades that were rumored earlier this offseason and would still make sense.
Rick Nash for Kevin Shattenkirk
While there may be other pieces involved going one way or the other, this remains a wise concept for both teams. The New York Rangers have a clear need on defense, with Ryan McDonagh serving as the only definite top-four NHL defenseman on the roster. Outside of McDonagh, New York hosts the declining Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, the developing Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei and the good-but-not-great Kevin Klein. Nick Holden and Adam Clendening serve as depth pieces but no more, so there is a gaping hole in the top four.
The Rangers signed Nathan Gerbe, Michael Grabner, Josh Jooris, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey to contracts this offseason, in addition to bringing Pavel Buchnevich over from Russia. They have a bevy of forwards to choose from, including various options that could fill Rick Nash’s role in the top six should he be moved.
The St. Louis Blues recently learned that Vladimir Sobotka will not likely return to the club for the 2016-17 campaign. St. Louis is struggling to bring over Sobotka from his KHL squad, meaning they have a hole in their top six after losing David Backes in free agency. With Ken Hitchcock in his final year at the helm, the Blues are in “go for it” mode, but they could certainly use another top six wing.
On defense, St. Louis has Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Carl Gunnarsson, Petteri Lindbohm, Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, and the soon-to-be free agent Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk’s top-four spot could be filled by the rising Lindbohm, and the Blues could get fair value in return for Shattenkirk before he potentially leaves in free agency.
The defender has expressed interest in playing for the Rangers, New York needs help on defense, and the Blues could use a top wing. With the Rangers’ ability to eat salary if necessary, the deal makes too much sense not to happen.
Ben Bishop to the Dallas Stars
The Stars are one of the premier contenders in the Western Conference, but they have allowed their goaltending woes to hurt them. As of now, Dallas will return the same pair of goaltenders that bounced them out of the Western Conference semifinal, hoping for a different result. Bringing in Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning would signal the team will accept nothing less than a Western Conference title or more, while also aiding a somewhat depleted Stars defense.
On the Lightning’s side of things, Tampa Bay will lose one of Bishop or Andrei Vasilevskiy to the NHL’s Las Vegas expansion team next summer. The only way that does not happen is if one of them retires, forgets how to play hockey or gets injured. That’s how definite the Lightning are to lose one of their greatest assets for nothing.
Opposing teams likely know this, so Steve Yzerman must find a team desperate for goaltending help. If the Stars packaged Kari Lehtonen with 50% of his contract retained and a prospect for Bishop, both sides would be getting what they want. Dallas gets its goaltender of the present and future, and Tampa Bay gets a prospect and some cap relief for a goalie they must move anyway.
Islanders deal either Jaroslav Halak or Thomas Greiss
The New York Islanders are in a funny position as a team with too much goaltending. Last season, New York juggled Halak, Greiss, and J.S. Berube in shifts, pleasing none of the goaltenders but making it to the second round of the NHL playoffs. None of the goalies are particularly happy, New York benefits little from using an extra roster space on a goalie, and the team could bring back value for one of their surplus goalies.
Halak’s comments in May do not sound like a goaltender that will want to be one of three on the roster this season:
“Either way, the team is not looking to continue a three-goalie system next season. Halak admitted “it’s not ideal,” and added, “I’ve tried to tell [management], and this is not up to me.”
There are plenty of teams that could use a goalie, New York must simply identify one and receive fair value back. Either of Jaroslav Halak or Thomas Greiss can start at this point, while J.S. Berube is best served in a backup position. Rather than going through the season with potential rifts in the locker-room, New York should deal a goalie and move on.