As the NHL inches closer to the offseason, trade rumors have begun to run rampant. One of the most notable trade rumors is about Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat. The Blackhawks are reportedly fielding offers for him and will be willing to move him under the right circumstances. With the Islanders looking for a boost to their offense this offseason, DeBrincat presents an intriguing potential option. The question is, all things considered, should the Islanders attempt to make a trade for DeBrincat?
His Offensive Game
The Islanders are seeking to try and play a more offensive style of game in the post-Trotz era. The problem is they don’t necessarily have the pieces to make that work. Outside of Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, no other Islander scored 20 goals. To successfully transition into a more offensive system, they’re going to need another high level goal scoring threat. Enter DeBrincat, who’s arguably one of the best options the Islanders have in this regard. He just came off a season scoring 41 goals for the second time in his career. He’s exactly the kind of skill-based offensive player that the Islanders roster lacks right now.
In addition, his likely pairing with Mat Barzal will be a match made in heaven for both players. Barzal’s pass-first game will work better with an elite option like DeBrincat to his side. And similarly to how working with Patrick Kane gave Debrincat a boost in Chicago, working with Barzal will surely continue to give him prime goal scoring chances. Not to mention the shot of life that will be injected into the Islanders power play with DeBrincat’s presence. Simply put, the Islanders desperately need the kind of talent that a player like DeBrincat will be able to bring to the team.
Bringing Some Youth to the Team
The Islanders are one of the oldest teams in the NHL. In regards to experience and discipline, that statistic has proven valuable to the team. However, as was seen in this previous season, is that it also creates a slower team, whose age catches up with them. With the added fact that the Islanders don’t necessarily have great depth at forward in the minor league systems, it makes a trade for DeBrincat even more valuable. DeBrincat is only 24 years old, so he’s a lot more than just a quick fix option for the Islanders. He’s someone who the Islanders could have around long term, in addition to being an immediate fix to the speed and goal-scoring issues that plagued them.
The Contract Situation
The Islanders have some cap space to work with this offseason, but not a whole lot. If a hypothetical trade for DeBrincat is completed, his $6.4 million AAV would take up half of the total ~ $12 million that Islanders have to work with. That in of itself is not problematic, aside from the limited funds the Islanders would have to make other improvements. What makes things complicated is that DeBrincat is on the last year of his current contract. He hits restricted free agency in 2023, which is going to be very busy for the Islanders. Mat Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom also hit restricted free agency in that offseason. Scott Mayfield will also be an unrestricted free agent at the time. That’s a lot of money to go around for a team with a lot of cap commitments already in place. It would take some maneuvering to make it all work, especially with the likes of Barzal and DeBrincat presumably wanting raises on their next contracts. But in the short term, his contract provides no immediate issues.
What Would a Trade Look Like?
A player like DeBrincat is going to have a large range of interested teams, teams who have better draft picks and prospects than the Islanders to offer up. As previously mentioned, the Islanders don’t have a lot of high level prospects in their system. Names like Robin Salo, Aatu Raty or even William Dufour are the best the Islanders have to offer. Anthony Beauvillier or Oliver Wahlstrom could also be pieces the Islanders use as higher level trade bait. The 13th pick and future draft compensation would also be in play to try and complete this trade. While this certainly is a feasible package to offer the Blackhawks, it’s hard to believe it’s the best one they’re going to get.
Should The Islanders Make a Run For Him?
All things considered, DeBrincat is a player the Islanders should prioritize making a run for. He’s arguably the best option the Islanders have available to them. Two time 40 goal scorers at only 24 years old don’t become available for trades very often. This is a unique opportunity for the Islanders to make a quick turnaround this season, and have a big piece to build around for future seasons. As far as the contract situation goes, a potential extension should be able to work out if they do acquire him. If Wahlstrom is a part of the package that goes to Chicago that’s one less contract to handle in 2023. In addition, Semyon Varlamov’s contract is set to expire in 2023 as well, clearing an extra $5 million in space.
The only thing stopping the Islanders from being able to complete this deal is what they have to offer the Blackhawks. There’s little to no doubt that they’re going to get outbid if the Blackhawks are serious about moving him. But he’s a player worth putting together their best package for and at least offering the Blackhawks a deal. If their rumored interest is true, they should be going all in to try and make this deal happen.
Featured image courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times via Getty Images
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