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Islanders Trade For DeBrusk Makes Sense If DeBrincat Goes Elsewhere

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New York Islanders president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello is on the record saying that he plans to use the remainder of the offseason to explore the NHL trade market in search of talent to supplement the team’s roster. As previously reported, the Islanders are said to be interested in trading for Alex DeBrincat of the Ottawa Senators, but that move is proving difficult to make.

DeBrincat, who is a restricted free agent, declined to sign an eight-year extension in Ottawa and is looking for a contract similar to the one Timo Meier recently signed with the New Jersey Devils. With an estimated $387,500 in cap space remaining, according to CapFriendly, Lamoriello will need to move significant pieces to make that kind of deal possible. Say Lamoriello does find a way to move the money; there is no guarantee the forward has any interest in staying with the Islanders beyond next season. Lamoriello rarely gives up assets for a player that isn’t going to stick around. Plus, it has been reported that DeBrincat, a native of Michigan, would prefer to be dealt to the Detroit Red Wings.

If that is indeed the case, the Islanders will have to look elsewhere to add some much-needed scoring punch and could deal from an area of strength in a trade with another Atlantic Division team.

With veteran Patrice Bergeron potentially calling it a career this summer, the Boston Bruins desperately need centers. If he does, the possibility of bringing in a player like Jean-Gabriel Pageau may be enticing to Boston GM Don Sweeney. While Pageau may not carry the same pedigree as Bergeron, the two play a very similar style as both are excellent penalty killers and are among the best in the league at the faceoff dot.

If he is willing to waive his modified no-movement clause, the Islanders could open trade talks by offering a package of Pageau and restricted free agent Oliver Wahlstrom to the Bruins in exchange for Jake DeBrusk.

DeBrusk, who will turn 27 towards the start of next season, is entering the last year of his current contract with a $4 million cap hit. Last season, the winger posted a career-high 50 points with 27 goals while playing in 64 games for the Bruins. Slide him on the left side of Bo Horvat and fellow former 2015 first-round draft pick Mathew Barzal on the top line, and DeBrusk becomes the goal-scoring threat the Islanders are looking for.

A couple of years ago, DeBrusk did request a trade from the Bruins while Bruce Cassidy was still the head coach in Boston. He rescinded that request last season under new Bruins bench boss Jim Montgomery, and there’s no indication he’s interested in leaving now. However, given how thin Boston’s depth is down the middle, the idea of this trade should at least be on the table.

But does a straight swap of Pageau and Wahlstrom for DeBrusk work? That depends.

Lamoriello may see that DeBrusk only has one year away left until free agency and tell Sweeney to throw in a draft pick to sweeten the deal. On the other hand, DeBrusk is coming off the single-best year of his career, and Sweeney might not want to give him up without getting future assets in return. Either way, the trade works from a financial standpoint.

By shedding themselves of Pageau’s $5 million salary, the Islanders’ cap space jumps to $1.382 million if they keep DeBrusk on his current deal. Meanwhile, Boston only accrues an extra million to their payroll with the addition of Pageau’s contract, giving them roughly $6 million to sign Wahlstrom and their other remaining RFAs.

Is it a deal that’s hard to stomach for both sides? Yes, but those kinds of trades always are. You have to give something to get something.

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