Trading Dustin Byfuglien: The Suitors

It’s a common lament among hockey fans and analysts alike: the salary cap killed the hockey trade.

While this new adage isn’t necessarily true, the salary cap has made player-for-player trades more complex. It’s all part of the minefield Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to navigate if he decides on trading Dustin Byfuglien.

Process of Elimination

For the Winnipeg Jets, very much a budget team, trading Dustin Byfuglien is especially complex. They can’t exactly take a mobster’s fortune back in salary, but Byfuglien carries a big cap hit (5.2 million) so many teams would have to give some salary back. Several teams in the NHL need defensive help, and any team could use Dustin Byfuglien (we’ve already established his value in part one), but few can afford him. Of those that can, fewer still have the assets to give the Jets the mammoth return they will doubtless seek.

Certain teams can be eliminated from the pool of suitors right away for cap reasons alone. Pittsburgh, for example, needs experienced defensemen after their blue line depth flew the coop the past few summers. From a hockey standpoint, adding a tough, high scoring defenseman makes perfect sense for Pittsburgh. The salary cap, however, nullifies this. The Penguins are right up against the cap with less than $1 million available. Then too, many of their prospects or picks were shipped out in the Kessel deal. The rest, including Derrick Pouliot, are no fly zones.

Another team that could use a kick in the pants on defense is the San Jose Sharks. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch a blue line with both Byfuglien and Brent Burns on it? Here again, however, the salary cap throws a wrench into the spokes, giving the Sharks only 1.5 million in cap space. Also, the Sharks best assets are either aging (Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau) or firmly on the “do-not-under-any-circumstances-trade” list (Joe Pavelski). Years of trading away their draft picks, and making some interesting choices with the ones they’ve kept, has left the prospect pool barren. The Sharks don’t have a first round pick in this coming draft either, thanks to the Martin Jones trade.

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Cap considerations aside, we can rule out the Jets trading Dustin Byfuglien within the division. Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn’t want that coming back to bite him five times a year. As such, both the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche, two teams who could use Dustin Byfuglien and have intriguing assets to give up, are out of the running.

The salary cap rules out the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, and Tampa Bay Lightning (whose cap situation is a real mess) as well.

If the Jets settle on trading Dustin Byfuglien, they need teams that can afford his cap hit and their massive asking price. They must also decide whether they want a trade that brings immediate returns, or one that adds to their already excellent stable of prospects. Either way, despite the omissions above, they have options.

The Suitors

Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim has a wealth of assets and a surplus of cap space, with over $7 million available. They have a variety of young weapons on the back end, but lack an all around defender like Byfuglien. He’d also make for a scary power play weapon with Getzlaf and Perry. As for what they’d give up, Anaheim could afford to trade a young defender, since their window of opportunity is now with Getzlaf and Perry entering their 30s. Up front, the Ducks have a deep forward group with plenty of emerging scorers. Anaheim also has one of the league’s most enticing prospect pools, with such gems as Nick Ritchie and Shea Theodore. Whether the Jets decide on trading Dustin Byfuglien to build for the future or to address needs in the present, Anaheim can accommodate.

Boston Bruins

Those of you familiar with Dustin Byfuglien rumours have probably heard somebody bang this drum before, possibly even on a very familiar site. At first, I didn’t think Boston had the necessary assets to acquire Byfuglien, but they’ve acquired some this summer, and may have a good package to put together if the Jets want to build for the future. Of course with the Bruins closer to the cap than many teams, some salary (and therefore a roster player) will have to go back. Other writers have brought up Brad Marchand as part of a possible return, which I would support.

The Bruins had three first rounders this year and have two next year thanks to the previously noted Martin Jones trade. Up front, the Bruins do have a few interesting young players who could step into the Jets lineup right away, though David Pastrnak is understandably off the table. Kevin Cheveldayoff would likely insist, however, that Jakub Zboril be part of any Byfuglien trade, since they are set for right handed defenders with Trouba and Myers but lacking for lefties.

Buffalo Sabres

Well, better the devil you know. The biggest trade of Kevin Cheveldayoff’s career was done with Buffalo GM Tim Murray, and Murray has shown no phobia of big deals, following the Myers trade up with the Ryan O’Reilly swap. Despite giving up a stash of prospects and picks to Colorado, Buffalo still has a veritable dragon’s treasure hoard of young players. The Sabres also have cap space, and could use a rugged defenseman like Byfuglien to mentor young Rasmus Ristolainen and watch the backs of their young stars. Trading Dustin Byfuglien to the same team as Evander Kane could make for an awkward dressing room dynamic, but from a hockey standpoint, the Sabres (who desperately need defensive help) make a good trade partner.

Edmonton Oilers 

I can’t remember the last time the Edmonton Oilers didn’t need help on defense. It was probably the last time Chris Pronger played there. The Oilers have some promising young defensemen both with the team and in the pipeline, but could any of them dominate the way Byfuglien can? The Oilers have an excess of forwards and need help on the back end, and could really kick off the official rebuild (version 4.0) in style this way. The Oilers do have a lot of contracts on defense, but could easily do away with some to make room for a player of Byfuglien’s calibre. So what do they give back? Well, with the drafting of Connor McDavid the Oilers now have one supremely talented centreman too many. Does it make any sense to have Leon Draisaitl toiling on the third line for years to come?

Florida Panthers

Florida may be my favourite destination on this list. For one thing, they have some excellent prospects at all positions. For another, they also show improving depth up front. A few young players with star potential are already contributing at the NHL level, and while Jonathan Huberdeau is an obvious untouchable, some of the team’s promising youngsters may be available if the Jets dangle bait as sweet as Byfuglien. The Panthers are an emerging young team whose biggest area of weakness is on defense, after Aaron Ekblad of course. A couple of young guns are on the way, but the Panthers are competing for a playoff spot now, and would love to see Ekblad have a mentor like Byfuglien who could not only teach him (he does bring Stanley Cup experience, after all) but also take some of the load off the Calder Trophy winner.

Ottawa Senators

Ottawa is in a similar boat to Florida: an emerging young team that needs help on defense. They have one of the NHL’s best in Erik Karlsson, and Cody Ceci has potential, but the rest of the defensive group is a bit wobbly. Ottawa has the needed cap space, and a roster loaded up front with young talent. Some of their prospects are worth looking at, including recently-drafted left handed defenseman Thomas Chabot.

For Next Time

I consider the listed teams the best options for the Jets in trading Dustin Byfuglien, but my mind isn’t closed. Is there a team you think I missed? As for the teams above, I have my own ideas of potential trades, but I’m not alone in this. Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments. For the next part, I’ll look at a possible trade with each of these clubs.