The Pittsburgh Penguins are busy at work trying to improve their roster at the trade deadline. And the possibilities for deals seem endless for general manager Jim Rutherford.
But make no mistake, the rest of the Metropolitan Division is working the phones too. The Penguins may not lead the division, but it feels as though the rest of Metro is chasing the two-time defending champions.
At least for one division rival, they are up for the challenge.
Washington Capitals Acquire Defenseman
General Manager Brian McClellan told fans not to expect a blockbuster. Thus far, the Capitals have remained out of the rumor mill and done exactly as McClellan predicted.
Similar to last season, the Capitals didn’t wait until the trade deadline to make a move for a defenseman. This year’s deal won’t make the same headlines acquiring Kevin Shattenkirk did, but it might be a better fit.
Earlier this week, the Capitals landed defenseman Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round pick. The selection is conditional — it will be the higher of the two third-rounders Washington’s owns. The other is from the Marcus Johannson trade to the New Jersey Devils last summer.
With the departures of Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner, and Nate Schmidt, coach Barry Trotz has been forced to play younger and more inexperienced players on his blue line this season. Kempny will provide some flexibility as a left-handed shot and depth on defense. He has one goal and seven points with a plus-13 rating in 31 games this season.
On Wednesday, the Capitals added another defenseman — Jakub Jerabek from the Montreal Canadiens. In a corresponding move, they placed former Penguins blueliner Taylor Chorney on waivers.
Columbus Blue Jackets in on Derrick Brassard?
The Blue Jackets have been connected to Brassard since December. They have failed previously to land big-name forwards such as Matt Duchene and Derek Stepan, but if the Blue Jackets are serious about making the playoffs, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen must address his forwards.
The Blue Jackets are oscillating between buying and selling. This week, the Athletic’s Aaron Portzline speculated the team could do both. Columbus’ best move could be to sell expiring contracts while trying to acquire players already under contract or ones who will sign long-term deals. Rental players make very little sense for the Blue Jackets.
Brassard is signed through the 2018-19 season, which means he qualifies for Kekalainen’s short list. Brassard has 17 goals and 35 points in 56 games this season. Back in 2015-16, he scored 27 with the Rangers.
To address their defensive needs, the Blue Jackets claimed Chorney off waivers from the Capitals. To make room for him on the roster, the Blue Jackets placed Nick Foligno on injured reserve. Foligno has been disappointing this season, but his absence is all the more reason for Columbus to acquire a scorer.
Ray Shero & New Jersey Devils Buying
As Penguins fans will remember, Shero isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a big trade. Things had been relatively quiet on the Devils front this trade season until Thursday night when they came a little out of left field to acquire Rangers forward Michael Grabner.
Trade call between NYR and NJD — first one ever, correct? — is happening shortly. NJ sends its own 2018 2nd-round pick and Igor Rykov to NYR for Michael Grabner.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 23, 2018
When the Rangers initially made Grabner a healthy scratch Thursday, the Bruins and Penguins were the front-runners to acquire him. The Maple Leafs were reportedly involved as well, but the Devils ultimately landed him. Leave it to Shero to pull off the first trade ever between the Devils and Rangers
— Jimmy Murphy (@MurphysLaw74) February 22, 2018
Rangers play-by-play guy Don LaGreca thinks that Michael Grabner is being traded to #Leafs. TOR was interested in re-signing him after the 15-16 season & Mike Babcock loved his defensive ability & speed, but dealing for a winger makes little sense unless they are dealing a winger
— Michael Augello (@MikeInBuffalo) February 22, 2018
The Devils are 13th in goal scoring, but the offense has been inconsistent. Over the last month, they have lost four in a row twice and won at least three straight on two occasions. In those eight losses, the Devils averaged 1.5 goals per game.
New Jersey hopes that the addition of Grabner will provide more scoring. His speed should fit right in. Grabner has 25 goals and 31 points in 55 games this season.
New York Islanders buy or sell?
By far, the hardest Metro team to predict what they may do at the trade deadline is the Islanders. Similar to the Blue Jackets, the Islanders can’t view themselves as genuine Stanley Cup contenders, and yet they are just one point back of the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
Complicating matters is John Tavares’ contract situation. He can become a free agent this summer, and with only one playoff series victory to date with Tavares, speculation will run wild if the Islanders sell before the deadline that his Islanders tenure is finished.
If the Islanders do add, ironically enough, they are reportedly interested in doing business with their crosstown rival. Arthur Staple of The Athletic reports the Islanders are interested Rangers defenseman, Ryan McDonagh. They were also reportedly interested in forward Michael Grabner before he was traded to the Devils.
The Islanders are fourth in goals per game and last in goals allowed per game, so unless Henrik Lundqvist is available, General Manager Garth Snow’s top choice must be McDonagh. But Staple says for the Rangers to send their captain to Brooklyn, the Islanders will most certainly have to overpay with a pair of first-round picks.
The Islanders have those assets, but that’s a hefty price.