It’s taken a while, but the NHL finally did something interesting. Even if it was a trade a player (Kyle Palmieri) that we knew was going to be traded, alongside a player that the GM had been lusting after (Travis Zajac) for a 1st round pick in an underwhelming draft, and two minor league players that I’m sure only existed for that brief moment in time that this trade was completed.
I guess good for the Islanders in beefing up their lineup in a year that they have been more successful than in recent memory, and good for the Devils in picking up one good draft pick instead of a mitt full of midround garbage, but none of this answers the important question, and that is How does this affect the Leafs?
One less trade target
The first thing this trade does is take Kyle Palmieri off the trade market. This isn’t a particularly big deal to a lot of people who were incredibly underwhelmed with the idea of bringing in Palmieri. It leaves Taylor Hall out there with one less team going after him, but might light a fire under teams like Boston and Colorado that are potentially competing with the Leafs for Hall’s services.
Still, this isn’t a two player deadline, and options like Nick Foligno, Jaden Schwartz, and Ryan Getzlaf are still name brand rentals for hire in the top six, and more appealing middle six options like Mikael Granlund, Alex Iafallo, and Scott Laughton are still out there as well. That’s just skimming the surface of potential forward rentals. Palmieri and Zajac disappearing doesn’t really do much to change the deadline from being a buyers market this year.
A better Islanders team, a different situation for the Devils
The fact that the Islanders have loaded up is important, given that they are one of the top teams in the league at the moment, and along with the Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, and Montreal Canadiens one of the other four teams that MoneyPuck has in the top five odds to win the Stanley Cup, along with the Maple Leafs.
From the Devils standpoint, they are now the team with the most cap space in the NHL according to PuckPedia. They’ve retained salary on Palmieri and Zajac, so they only have the option to retain salary on one more player, but odds are good that they will use that option. For the Leafs this could mean getting a rental of someone like Sami Vatanen, or Nikita Gusev at half price, or it could mean they could be a third party team that retains some salary so the Leafs can land a double retained player for a price. It also seems like the Devils are committed to selling and they still have Miles Wood who would be an ideal target for the Leafs, although they might not want to retain salary because his contract goes beyond this year.
The Return on Rentals
The Islanders gave up what equates to a late round first for two middle six players, who had their salaries halved by the Devils. Over $5M of salary retained and only a 1st for Palmieri and Zajac, and not a particularly good first at that. I’m sure I’m not the only person who is reflecting on how Taylor Hall and Linus Ullmark (a definite improvement over each of the Devils players) could potentially be had for a 1st and Kerfoot, or something of that nature.
Okay, so probably not that good a deal, but it’s definitely worth noting the Leafs should not have to part with a top prospect unless they are chasing a player with term, and everything Kyle Dubas has said publicly has led us to believe that finding a player with term isn’t the direction he’s going.
So there’s not really going to be floodgates this year. It’s likely to be a very slow trade deadline, but now that we’ve seen one deal and the Sabres are already to the point where they are holding Hall out of the lineup, is it possible that we see something soon, and something for the Leafs in the near future? The Leafs don’t play again until Saturday night, so that gives Dubas a couple of days to keep the Leafs in the headlines. That said, the slow nature of the deadline and the fact that something hasn’t materialized for the Leafs sooner might make a case for waiting until the last minute, and the trade deadline might not really start for Toronto until after Saturday night’s game. Basically we don’t know, but what we did learn here is that top teams will still load up, and the prices are pretty good. For the Leafs, standing pat seems like an unacceptable option, no matter how well things have been going.