Disclaimer: This post is now outdated, as Duchene is going to Columbus. The deal is finalized, leaving Hayes as the only high-end UFA center on the market. I’ve never had a post get so outdated so quickly. This post was relevant for 9 minutes. But hey, enjoy!
For the second straight year, the Ottawa Senators will have at least one big name player on the market that trumps all other players available. Last year Ryan McDonagh was supposed to be the biggest name available, until Erik Karlsson was made available. This year Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello are two of the bigger names, trumped by Matt Duchene (available for a while) and Mark Stone (available as of yesterday).
While we can’t prove one way or another, there are rumblings that McDonagh’s trade value was impacted by Karlsson’s availability. We don’t know if Karlsson’s availability took away some better offers than what the Rangers eventually took from Tampa, although it appears unlikely since Karlsson was a RD and McDonagh a LD.
What we do know so far, or what we think we know, is that the teams interested in Hayes and Zuccarello are also interested in Stone and Duchene. Winnipeg, Columbus, Nashville, and Boston are the four teams that constantly get mentioned. Calgary has mostly been tied to Zuccarello, but it’s a safe assumption that they’ve at least kicked the tires on Stone and Duchene.
What separates the Rangers’ assets from Ottawa’s is cost. Hayes and Zuccarello are complementary pieces and will cost less. Duchene and Stone are big-time adds that will cost an arm and a leg. However there is no denying that Stone and Duchene are better players than Hayes and Zuccarello, and assuming identical cost, teams will go for the Ottawa duo.
The concern isn’t necessarily about the players or the cost differential, it’s that the same teams linked to Hayes and Zucc are the ones linked to Stone and Duchene. Now this could just be lazy reporting and assumptions, but it is logical to assume that teams that wanted the Rangers’ duo would want the Senators’ duo, since they all play the same position.
What sets the Rangers apart from Ottawa is that their duo can have a lower cost, and thus packaged together to a team for what one of Stone/Duchene would cost. Or at least that’s my inference from rumored costs. Teams like Winnipeg or Nashville, who have the primary pieces in place and just want to round out their rosters, will probably get more value in two middle-six forwards for the same price of one top-six forward.
(Of course that last sentence can also be used as logic for trading for one player, so it’s a grey area.)
The difference between Karlsson/McDonagh and Stone-Duchene/Hayes-Zuccarello is that the same teams seem to be involved for this year’s deadline prizes. We don’t know yet if this will impact the Rangers, but it makes you wonder if Jeff Gorton shot himself in the foot by not moving on from Hayes earlier in the season when he had the chance.