Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kris Letang Trade Week, Day 4: Where Brooklyn At?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Day 1: All the background info, then a trip to Toronto
Day 2: Across the river to Detroit
Day 3: Big names in Tampa

One of the problems we encounter when coming up with fake Kris Letang trades is that we assume all 29 other teams are rational actors.  In real life, we know that's not the case, but unless you're with Ray Shero at the GM meetings this week, it's hard to identify the marks.  It'd be great to trade with the Flyers because they seem willing to do whatever, whenever, but they're at least smart enough to know better than to trade with the Penguins (there are reports the Flyers are shopping Braydon Coburn and the 11th pick for Bobby Ryan, and Kris Letang is a more valuable player than Bobby Ryan).  The Coyotes and Jets have some nice pieces, but the uncertainty about where the Coyotes will be next season, and whether Letang would even sign a long-term deal with either of those teams, makes those deals too speculative.

Other teams we're crossing off, and a proposed deal, after the jump...

Say goodbye to:

Montreal and Ottawa, because Letang is superfluous with Subban and Karlsson.
Vancouver because they'll want to re-sign the Sedins and already have five defensemen making over $4M/year.
Chicago and Boston because they're too good without him and don't need him.
San Jose, because in the words of Artistry, their good players are too expensive, and their prospects aren't sexy enough.
Minnesota (Suter)
L.A. (Doughty)
Nashville (Weber)
Edmonton, Florida, and Columbus for similar reasons to Phoenix and Winnipeg
St. Louis, because if they can re-sign Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk, both RFAs, then Letang is unnecessary

Taking out the three teams we covered on days 1-3 of KLTW -- Toronto, Detroit, and Tampa -- who's left?

Washington (now this is getting interesting)
Carolina (great relationship between GMs)
Anaheim (because every team is always trading for Bobby Ryan)
Colorado (but a lot of uncertainty about the draft)
Dallas (signed Gonchar to a 2yr/$10M deal, so you know they're DTF)
New York Rangers (Sather is always up for whatever)
Buffalo (we could learn to like Ryan Miller for a season)
Calgary (also up for whatevs)
New Jersey (they'd LOVE Letang, but they also have like 3 players under contract)
New York Islanders (they say Brooklyn is the Montreal of the U.S. (no one says that))

In picking among this rather unimpressive group of teams, it's important to keep in mind what the Pens need to get in return for Letang.  At minimum, the Pens need a defensemen who can play 20 minutes a night, and a forward with speed and youth (preferably 25 and under).  Plus picks and all that stuff.  Despite the hardened consensus that the Jordan Staal trade was a good one, we're a little less certain than most.  Consider: in return for an absolute horse, the only immediate help the Pens got was a rather underwhelming third line center.  The prospects and picks the Pens got may turn out to be good, but because the team had to go for a Cup in 2013, Shero was forced to use this surplus of assets to get veterans -- late in a very short season, no less -- who ended up not helping that much.  The return for Letang has to be much less speculative.  To think that Shero can get one OK player and a bunch of assets, then flip those assets at the trade deadline to go for the 2014 Cup, would be to ignore the past 4 years of that strategy not really working.

So let's spin the Wheel of Mediocrity and see where it lands.

Still spinning...

The Islanders proved in the first round that they are a team on the rise with a legitimate MVP candidate in John Tavares and a fan base that's thirsting for success now, not at some undetermined time in the future.

That's where Letang comes in.

A core of Letang and Tavares guarantees the Islanders relevancy, and success, over the next decade.  They haven't been relevant or successful in 20 years.  A top-3 MVP candidate and a top-3 Norris candidate who would fit perfectly with their up-tempo style?  The soon-to-be weirdo Brooklyn hipster bandwagon fans can get on board with that.  And they have plenty of cap space.

No need for parking when everyone is going to bike to the game.
The Pens basically auditioned their return in this trade for 6 games last month, so it isn't hard to pick to favorites:  Travis Hamonic (a RFA, but we assume for this exercise that this will all work itself out) and Kyle Okposo.

Before Islanders fans get all upset that these are their two favorite players, remember: Hamonic briefly got inside the head of a player into whose head it is relatively easy to get, but then said player lit up the scoreboard.  Okposo got the Pierre McGuire Leadership Lather during the first round, but at least two of his goals were scored by Marc-Andre Fleury.  And he had 4 goals during the regular season.  Let's not pretend these guys are all-stars.

But let's also not pretend that these guys are nobodies because their skating, youthful energy, and tenacity would instantly make the Pens a lot harder to play against.  They're both pricks, but they're both also pretty good.

Has a real chance to become an iconic picture.
Throw in the Isles first round pick (15th overall), or some other high-level prospect, and now we're talking.  Enough or not enough?

Kris Letang Trade Week concludes on Friday with a blockbuster including pretty much every team in the league.

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