We’ll start this list off with two teams whose aging cores of players will almost certainly force their hands to try to win this season: the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. While it’s tough to see GM Jarmo Kekalainen dealing a valuable asset like this to a divisional rival, it’s not impossible – they just might have to pay a premium to get it done. Which could make things really worthwhile for the Jackets.
The Penguins are probably in a better space to make this kind of deal than the Capitals, because they have more of their own draft capital. But, for either of these teams to dip into the Jackets roster, I think this first round pick has to be this year, and I think they have to up their ante to a second round pick if they want in on Gavrikov. The year of that pick wouldn’t be as crucial, and would depend on which one of these teams might get involved (the Caps don’t have their 2nd this year, for example).
For these reasons, I think it’s unlikely that either of these teams will seriously be in on a deal for Vlad, but if past history and their roster situations are any indication, we can’t write them off until a deal isn’t done. Both teams should be looking to contend as much as possible as players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Alexander Ovechkin continue to age.
But since we’re talking about the Metropolitan Division here, there’s one other team that could sneak into this conversation: the New Jersey Devils. They’re in a different situation, with their window of contention just starting to creep open. Could they look to make a splash and add some depth to their blue line before the playoffs?
The Devils are at a slight advantage because they have a very deep and talented prospect pool, which could give them the leg up if they wanted to step into the Gavrikov conversation.
It goes without saying that the Devils aren’t trading a Simon Nemec or Luke Hughes in any deal like this, but they’ve been patiently building up, waiting for this team to break out, and they finally have. Would they be willing to deal away a second tier prospect who might be close to the NHL? Would the Jackets bite at such a deal?
I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility. The best years are just starting to roll in for the Devils, so they could really go without adding anything at this year’s deadline, and simply wait for their prospects to come along before aiming for serious contention. But, like with Pittsburgh and Washington, they are a dark horse until no deal is done.