In just a week, the National Hockey League’s Trade Deadline will help craft a potential winner of the Stanley Cup.
Unless you happen to have a direct connection to the brain waves of Jeff Gorton, Garth Snow and Ray Shero, it’s impossible to predict which way the respective local bosses will go.
But this much is certain; Trade Deadline deals — or trades close to the deadline — historically have powered locals to the Cup.
The Islanders did it in 1980 trading for irrepressible center Butch Goring and tough defenseman Gord Lane. Ditto for the Rangers in 1994 when the Blueshirts added the likes of Glenn Anderson, Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan, among others.
And who can forget how Lou Lamoriello changed the face of his Devils in 1995, nabbing Cup heroes Neal Broten and Shawn Chambers, each of whom made a big positive difference in the Final Round sweep of the Red Wings.
Here are some possibilities if you care to fantasize about the Feb. 29 deadline:
One could say that the Blueshirts currently have the ideal balance from goal to defense to offense. But, as any Rangers fan will attest, there’s always room for improvement.
Granted that virtually everyone can score from the first three lines. That said, no single player is consistent to the point that one could say Gorton would reject one major scorer, via a deal.
The tricky aspect has to do with Rick Nash‘s injury and when he will be available for the Blueshirts. A best-case scenario would have the big guy returning in mint condition — and well-rested — for a playoff run.
As my buddy Gus Vic observes, “Mortgaging another first-round pick could be very risky for this group as the core continues to age. The other possibility is acquiring someone up front with championship pedigree.”
Who are the usual suspects?
Eric Staal of Carolina — Marc Staal‘s older brother — and Andrew Ladd from Winnipeg. The Canes or Jets could demand too much in return and that could turn off Gorton to the idea of making a deal.
More reasonable could be last spring’s championship rental Antoine Vermette who emigrated from Phoenix to Chicago, scoring big when the Blackhawks needed it most in the postseason.
And if beef is sought, my choice would be Ottawa’s Chris Neil although the latter insists that he wants to be a Senator for life. Hey, that could change if it means legitimately skating for a Cup-winner.
I believe that a healthy Nash could negate any rash moves.
The Brooklynites continue to demonstrate that secondary scoring should be their first priority. John Tavares, Brock Nelson and Kyle Okposo provide a solid nucleus, but a little more pop would be desirable.
Jack Capuano‘s defense is reasonably solid and balanced, plus he boasts a fourth line — Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck — that remains intact and effective seemingly forever. That, of course, does not mean that Snow won’t be looking for one more sharpshooter.
A “sleeper” is the Coyotes’ Mikkel Boedker, although he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Arizona’s general manager Don Maloney likely would ask for a young defenseman in return.
If the Stars care to part with creative Ales Hemsky, his skill set could enhance the Isles attack.
Goaltending — especially with the rise of Thomas Greiss — is well-rounded so there’s no need to tamper with that department.
Snow has several options, but he’s not telling me — or anyone else for that matter — what they are. But we’ll know soon enough.
More than their Metro foes, the Devils require more oomph in their arsenal. Shero has plenty of cap room, but may not want to disrupt his well-structured lines which still conceivably could deposit New Jersey into the playoffs.
Yes, the club could use a Top-6 forward but, no, not likely at the deadline unless Ray parts with another player or pick and I doubt that will happen.
When you think about it, the Devils have earned the right to finish 2015-16 with this roster including pending unrestricted free agents Lee Stempniak and David Schlemko. Each should be part of the club’s future.
Equally important is the fact that several players will be off the books by next season including Jordin Tootoo and Tuomo Ruutu, among others. My Devils savant, Leo Scaglione, Jr. makes a good point, “The potential cap room opens the possibility of a summer splash of signings.”
Or, to put it another way, in July, the likes of a Ladd might be available for the plucking without losing anyone significant from the roster.
By sitting tight, Shero could become an active free agent player in July and that will enable him to continue his splendid job of rebuilding the roster around Cory Schneider.