Earlier today, news broke of a cross-town deal between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islander. Cash-strapped and entering the 11th hour of Zach Parise ‘s contract negotiations, the Devils shipped 38-year-old winger Brian Rolston and his $5.01 million cap hit to the Isles in exchange for two-way forward Trent Hunter. The trade is a two-fold win for the Devils when you consider they not only shave over $3 million off their salary cap but they also free up a spot among their top-six wingers for a youngster like Nick Palmieri or Mattias Tedenby.
As usual, we are not too concerned with the politics, just the fantasy value. So let’s take a look at where this takes us.
New York Islanders
Receive a veteran in Rolston, who should add leadership to a young and impressionable team. The Devils loved him around their youngsters last season although they did gripe about his offseason training. Considering his age, 38, and his struggles to get out of the gate it is a mystery what the Islanders will get out of their veteran ; at least production-wise. While his first 21 games played only netted him two goals and five points, Rolston attributed to the gigantic Devils comeback bid. Over his final 44 games he managed 12 goals and 29 points which projects to 54 total points — not bad in leagues that require a great deal of depth. However, playing on a team we can only assume will be weaker than the post-ASG Devils should lead to a decent drop in production.
Last season, the team re-signed PA Parenteau to complete the John Tavares and Matt Moulson line. One can only assume he will play on either the second or third line but Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner likely push him to the third. Regardless, he should find a decent place to pot his goals and should be penciled in on the power play point. While Okposo and a healthy Mark Streit could provide the blasts from the point, both struggled with injuries with the latter doubtful to make a 100 percent recovery when the first puck is dropped. Rolston could add that lethal element to their young and budding offense. As the highest paid player on the roster, one could expect him to get his ice time in, just not necessarily a heap of scoring minutes.
Rolston likely finishes the season with around 20 goals and 15-20 assists if healthy all year.
New Jersey Devils
Take on two more seasons of Hunter at a somewhat reasonable $2 million hit. At 31, he likely does not see any time on a scoring role unless several players — Palmieri, Tedenby, David Clarkson, Jacob Josefsen, etc — either are rendered too raw or become injured. We only find his cap hit somewhat reasonable due to his history of injuries and inconsistency to find the back of the net. Combine those factors with his ever-slowing foot speed and we find ourselves looking at a shell of a once-Calder Memorial Trophy finalist. Regardless, Hunter will have every opportunity to prove himself in training camp and his new system may even mask his declining skill set. His defensive awareness fits the Devils’ style to a T, not to mention new head coach Pete DeBoer will work every-last-ounce out of the veteran.
Following the lockout, Hunter never managed to top his rookie-year totals of 25 goals and 51 points. He proved three seasons ago he could still be used as an offensive weapon finishing with 12 goals and 41 points. Nevertheless, despite his excellent defensive play he was relegated to a scoring line which inflated his counting stats. In New Jersey, he should have no choice besides the third, or most likely fourth line. He could reach double digits in goals next season but we feel more comfortable projecting that for Clarkson as far as bottom-line players go. Expect his arrival to pave the way for more youngsters to infiltrate the scoring ranks.
We feel comfortable saying Hunter will struggle to produce 30 points as a Devil, this year and next season.
To summarize, this trade is as business as they can get. Neither team necessarily needed the other player but they did need to move around the money involved. From a fantasy perspective, it is a third liner for a fourth liner with neither player coming as a safe bet. Stay away from both unless either get an unlikely bump to a top line since their only relevance comes in deeper leagues. Otherwise, take advantage of the players who gain a spot from Rolston’s departure.
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