Should The Islanders Trade For Jake DeBrusk?

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 21: Jake DeBrusk #74 of the Boston Bruins skates during a game against the Calgary Flames at the TD Garden on November 21, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Flames won 4-0. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

The first half of an NHL season is usually reserved with trades. This season, Jack Eichel has found a new home in Vegas, and now Jake DeBrusk has requested a trade. DeBrusk, 25, is at a crossroads in his career, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season. DeBrusk has seen his role diminished in Boston and is now at odds with team management. Equally desperate, the Islanders need a scorer to boost their offense. With DeBrusk wanting out of Boston, should the Islanders trade for Jake DeBrusk?

Is the Trade Possible?

Both the Islanders and Bruins have little cap space to work with. The Islanders have $6 million currently free, with Brock Nelson and Ryan Pulock on injured reserve. However, Nelson’s contract will wipe out any free cash the Isles will have when he returns from injury. Considering Pulock adds another $5 million upon his return, and frankly, I have no idea how the Islanders were under the cap to start the season. We know that the NHL salary cap has massive loopholes that teams frequently take advantage of, but that makes the execution of this trade harder.

Boston has just over $2million in free cap space on their end. DeBrusk has a cap hit of $3.7 million, so ideally, the Islanders could only trade a player who makes $3.5-$5 million per season. That leaves Kyle Palmieri, J.G. Pageau, Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck, and Anthony Beauvillier.

The Islanders traded their 2020 first and second-round picks, plus a 2022 second-round pick, for Pageau during the 2019-20 season. Pageau has been a terrific addition to their third line and is fully committed to Barry Trotz’s system. He is unlikely to go. Bailey and Clutterbuck are alternate captains and probably won’t be moved either.

Palmieri is an odd choice, but he may be extremely useful to Boston. For a Bruins team that is lacking on their third and fourth lines, Palmieri brings experience and leadership. If this deal is one-for-one, the Islanders have the edge and drastically improve Boston’s bottom six.

The other option would be Anthony Beauvillier. Beau is a year younger than DeBrusk but has definitely taken a step back this season. He has seven points in 17 games, a far cry from his 28 and 39-point seasons in 2019-20 and 2020-21. The Islanders will likely ask for more than just DeBrusk in this trade. Beauvillier and DeBrusk were both drafted in the 2015 draft. The Bruins had three consecutive picks at 14,15 and 16 and passed on both Beauvillier and Matt Barzal.

Yes, They Should

While this trade is complicated to pull off, the Islanders would get a former 40-point scorer in DeBrusk. In his first three seasons in Boston, DeBrusk had 43, 42, and 35 points, and in all three seasons, he played less than 82 games. Reflecting on the Jordan Eberle-Ryan Strome trade from the 2016-17 season, the Islanders have made a similar scenario work. Trade an asset that is underperforming for an asset that is also underperforming. The Islanders have the advantage with acquiring DeBrusk because he is seeking a new home. A fresh start for DeBrusk in a system that will be relied on to score will keep him motivated.

While he had problems with Boston’s management, DeBrusk has decided to stay with the team after requesting the trade. His average ice time has dwindled from 16 minutes a night in 2018-19 to 14 minutes a night this season. DeBrusk was also demoted to a fourth-line role, and Boston coach Bruce Cassidy wants him to be more of an enforcer than a scorer.

Last season, DeBrusk had 33 hits and 24 blocks through 41 games. He was on pace to set a career-high in blocks, and his hit total would have been the biggest since his rookie season. This proves DeBrusk can commit to a role on a team, and he just thinks he would have a better impact elsewhere.

No, They Shouldn’t

During the entire NHL offseason, the Islanders stayed quiet about transactions. It wasn’t until mid-September that general manager Lou Lamoriello revealed that Zdeno Chara and Zach Parise signed with the team. The probable reason behind the delay was that the Islanders were over the salary cap limit. Some way, they were able to re-sign every NHL-level Islander that didn’t have a contract and added Chara and Parise. They have zero cap space left, and the trade for DeBrusk can’t be as simple as giving up a few draft picks.

The Islanders have been inconsistent this year because the whole team isn’t “buying-in” to Trotz’s coaching style. The team is in desperate need of scoring, but Trotz and Lamoriello are still confident in the players on the roster.

DeBrusk going for Palmieri will be a steal for the Islanders if it works out. DeBrusk will need to learn the Trotz system and re-establish himself as a deadly scorer. Trotz gives out ice time based on merit. DeBrusk is trying to leave the Bruins because they don’t think he’s worth more than 14 minutes of ice time a game. Looking at the Islanders’ situation this season, if DeBrusk struggles, he will be out of the lineup once again. His risk outweighs the payoff.

The Verdict

The Islanders will not trade for Jake DeBrusk. He has the scoring ability and can give the Islanders flexibility to re-sign him in the offseason, but trading for DeBrusk is too risky. General manager Lou Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz are confident enough in the current team, although the Islanders have struggled immensely. While DeBrusk to the Islanders sounds like a good trade, in theory, it would take too much from the team to pull it off.

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