The New York Islanders are going to be an active team at the trade deadline. However, with only 18 wins in 44 games, it’s more likely that Lou Lamoriello and the front office will look to trade away some key contributors on the roster rather than acquire talent.
One of the players the Islanders will look to trade at the deadline is 34-year-old forward Cal Clutterbuck, who is a free agent at the end of the season. He is a later line forward who plays great defensively in all three zones but particularly creates scoring chances with a strong forecheck along the boards and playing alongside Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin, has formed the team’s identity line in recent seasons. His skillset carries unprecedented value for any team looking to make a playoff run and win the Stanley Cup and as a result, teams should be willing to give them a mid-round pick for the veteran forward.
The Calgary Flames are having a remarkable season, winning 29 of their 48 games and boasting the best record in the Pacific Division. Their offense is playing at a high level and winning games with skill and speed, led by Johnny Gaudreau, Andrew Mangiapane, and Matthew Tkachuk. Despite the talented roster and the speed in the forward unit, they lack depth and forwards that can step up defensively, making Clutterbuck an ideal acquisition.
The Flames already have a hard hitter on the later lines in 33-year-old forward Milan Lucic and adding Clutterbuck would only add to the toughness of that line. Moreover, possessing a forechecking line would allow them to force turnovers in the offensive zone and maintain possession of the puck throughout playoff games, which will be pivotal against the potent offenses of the Colorado Avalanche or Minnesota Wild.
While the Flames already made a big move, acquiring Tyler Toffoli from the Montreal Canadiens, the front office might still look to make a trade to add depth to the forward or defensive unit. They are built to compete for the Stanely Cup and adding a star scorer in Toffoli helps out the forward unit but to put the team over the top, they might look to add a veteran that also brings defense to every shift, making Clutterbuck a perfect fit.
The Boston Bruins have a talented roster and will look to make a big move at the trade deadline once again. They have two great forward lines led by Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Taylor Hall but the forward unit has struggled otherwise. The forward depth has been a prominent issue on the roster for years and has let the team down particularly in the playoffs when they have faced multiple great defensive pairings.
Clutterbuck would add depth to the right side of the forward unit but also at the center position, giving the Bruins flexibility. Moreover, the 34-year-old forward has a great shot on the wing and would give them an edge offensively in a playoff run. The front office might be looking for a forward that is better in the offensive zone like Claude Giroux but acquiring Clutterbuck would still provide much-needed depth and a well-rounded roster for playoff matchups.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are putting together another Stanley Cup calibre season with great play from all three units. However, the window might close after this season with the roster possessing multiple pending free agents including Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, Evan Rodrigues, and Kris Letang. The front office hopes to re-sign many of their key contributors but with the salary cap, it’s unlikely this talented roster will remain intact next season. As a result, there will be a greater sense of urgency for them to make a move and acquire that missing piece necessary for a playoff run.
It’s possible the Islanders will avoid trading Clutterbuck to a team within the Metropolitan Division, especially if they are still competing for a playoff spot. Likewise, the Penguins might look for other needs on the roster like a defenseman or backup goaltender as a top priority rather than forward depth. However, if the right deal is in place, the Islanders would make the trade and hope that he signs elsewhere in the offseason.
Other Teams That Could Acquire Clutterbuck
The New York Rangers are a heated rival of the Islanders and also play in the Metropolitan Division, making them unlikely trade partners. However, they are desperately looking for forward depth and have the pieces in place to make a big move. Likewise, the Edmonton Oilers are looking to add depth at the trade deadline and a two-way forward like Clutterbuck could be an ideal contrast to the potent offense the team possesses. Ultimately, the Islanders are going to receive multiple calls for a forward that can impact all three zones like he does and will find a desirable offer if they choose to move him.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink has written for multiple sports blogs and platforms covering the NHL, NFL, MLB, and college sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.