Islanders Have to Weigh the Cost of Trading for DeBrincat

The New York Islanders are looking to put together an offseason that can set them up for a Stanley Cup run next season. After making the playoffs but being eliminated in the first round, they showed that the roster is good enough to make the playoffs but is missing a few pieces to make them contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Related: Senators: 3 Teams That Should Consider an Alex DeBrincat Trade

Another team entering the offseason in a similar situation is the Ottawa Senators. They missed the playoffs but have a good core of young elite players and are looking to take that next step and become one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. The problem the Senators face is that one of their best players from this past season, Alex DeBrincat, might have to be traded with both sides struggling to agree on a long-term deal.

DeBrincat is a core player on the Senators and with the team looking to contend next year, it’s unlikely they will trade him. However, the pending restricted free agent (RFA) has yet to agree on an extension and could be traded this offseason. The Islanders would love to add an elite player entering the prime of his career but a deal with the Senators would have a handful of obstacles.

Why Lamoriello Would Avoid Acquiring DeBrincat

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding Islanders general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello, who is 80 years old and on a contract that expires June 30. While it’s possible that he retires or the ownership group will look to part ways with him, there’s also a strong indication that he’ll remain the GM of the team this offseason and for the upcoming season. Assuming he remains, it’s unlikely Lamoriello would make a move for DeBrincat or try to make a splash for an elite forward of his caliber.

Lou Lamoriello New York Islanders
Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders attends the 2019 NHL Draft (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Lamoriello rarely makes big moves in the offseason and avoids paying for elite forward talent. Instead, he prefers to build his teams from the net out, something he did with the New Jersey Devils for decades and with the Islanders in the last five years. While Lamoriello made a splash by acquiring Bo Horvat during the All-Star Break, that move was the exception, not the rule. Moreover, the Horvat deal hasn’t worked out as planned as the star center only scored seven goals and nine assists since the acquisition and only one goal and one assist in the playoffs. As a result, the Islanders’ GM will be cautious about making a move for another elite forward.

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That said, if the right deal is on the table, Lamoriello will take advantage. With the Horvat trade, he saw an opportunity to acquire him at a reasonable price and made the move at the All-Star Break instead of waiting for the trade deadline. With DeBrincat, if Lamoreillo can get a deal done and subsequently extend the pending RFA for eight seasons, he’ll make the trade. The problem is that a deal would come with a cost.

The Cost of Acquiring DeBrincat

The Senators will want a strong return in a deal involving DeBrincat. They acquired him ahead of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft from the Chicago Blackhawks for the seventh-overall pick. While they won’t be asking for the same price, the Senators, who are hoping to compete next season, would hope to land NHL-ready players in a deal.

The problem the Islanders have is that a lot of the players on the roster are integral to the team’s success. They could move pending RFA Pierre Engvall in a deal but the forward was a pivotal part of the offense after he was acquired at the trade deadline, scoring five goals and forming a strong connection with Kyle Palmieri. The other players that could be moved are defensive prospects Robin Salo and Samuel Bolduc or top forward prospect William Dufour. If the Islanders made a splash and acquired DeBrincat, they’d have to send at least two young players to the Senators to make the deal work, which would make an aging roster even older next year.

Robin Salo New York Islanders
Robin Salo, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Along with the return in a deal, the Islanders would have to extend DeBrincat shortly after acquiring him. Not only would the deal need to have a high average annual value but it would also be a long-term contract, keeping him on the roster for the foreseeable future. Considering the Islanders don’t have a lot of salary cap space to work with the only way they can acquire DeBrincat is if he’s the only player they acquire in the offseason. This would mean that they wouldn’t re-sign Zach Parise who, at 38 years old, would be forced to retire. Additionally, pending free agents Scott Mayfield and Semyon Varlamov would have to sign elsewhere and Engvall, who has been a valuable addition, would have to be traded to make room for the star forward.

A deal for Debrincat would be a high-risk one. It would force the Islanders to go all-in on an elite player while surrendering some of their depth players to fit him on the roster. However, DeBrincat is the type of player that could put the Islanders over the top and make them Stanley Cup contenders.

What DeBrincat Adds to the Islanders

With the Blackhawks, DeBrincat established himself as an elite goalscorer but one with limitations. He scored 41 goals in the 2021-22 season but thrived off the playmaking ability of Patrick Kane, who provided him with a lot of scoring chances. However, with the Senators, he showed that he is a well-rounded forward who can both set up scoring opportunities and find the back of the net himself. In the 2022-23 season, DeBrincat scored 27 goals and 39 assists as he became a pass-first player that set up scoring chances in the top six.

The Islanders would be adding an elite forward to the top six who can not only play multiple positions but help out the offense in a multitude of ways. His scoring ability makes him a complementary forward to play alongside Mathew Barzal, who is known for setting up scoring chances for his linemates. DeBrincat’s vision and passing skills make him an ideal player to play alongside Anders Lee, the best finisher on the Islanders, or Palmieri and Horvat, two of the team’s best shooters. DeBrincat’s skill set is complementary to a lot of the forwards on the roster but more importantly, he is the versatile skater that the team desperately needs.

The Islanders were eliminated in six games by the Carolina Hurricanes in a one-sided first round series. They were outmatched and lacked versatile forwards to beat the Hurricanes. DeBrincat would not only add that versatility to the forward unit but he’d put the Islanders in a position to win the Stanley Cup.

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