Islanders vs. Red Wings: The Battle for Alex DeBrincat

The Hockey Writers

Alex DeBrincat is on the trade block. The star forward and restricted free agent (RFA) has struggled to reach a long-term agreement with the Ottawa Senators and it’s only a matter of time before he is moved in a blockbuster deal.

Related: Islanders Have the Pieces to Trade for Alex DeBrincat

The two teams that have emerged as frontrunners to acquire DeBrincat are the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings. On the Jeff Marek Show, Marek discussed that they have the ability to acquire the star if either team can subsequently sign him to a long-term contract. The expectation is that DeBrincat will be traded and signed to an eight-year deal that costs at least $8 million per year which will force both the Islanders and Red Wings to not only put together a good package to acquire him but move around players to fit him under the salary cap.

Alex DeBrincat Ottawa Senators
Alex DeBrincat, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The question is what team can put together the best offer? The Senators have two bidders for DeBrincat and are looking for a return that can add to a roster looking to take a big leap next year. The Red Wings and Islanders have the ability to put together reasonable offers but also add sweeteners to the deal that can sway Senators general manager (GM) Pierre Dorion. With the help of Tony Wolak, who covers the Red Wings for The Hockey Writers, we looked at what both teams can offer for DeBrincat.

The Islanders’ Realistic Offer

The Islanders have less cap space than the Red Wings, which makes it difficult for them to acquire DeBrincat. The Red Wings have over $11 million in salary cap space while the Islanders have under $1 million to work with, and that’s without Oliver Wahlstrom, who is an RFA, signed to a contract. However, while the Islanders lack cap space, they have the players to make a deal with the Senators.

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The most notable player they can trade in a DeBrincat deal is Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who started out his career with the Senators. He is a two-way center who has been a key part of the Islanders’ forward unit in recent seasons. In four years with the team, he has scored 47 goals and 62 assists and notably helped the Islanders reach the Eastern Conference Final in 2020 and 2021. Along with adding scoring to the middle lines and his play defensively, with 12.9 career defensive point shares, makes him a valuable player to acquire in a trade. The Senators have a surplus of reliable centers with Claude Giroux, Joshua Norris, and Shane Pinto but they could use another center in the middle six. With Norris recovering from shoulder surgery, it’s likely that he will slowly ease his way back into the lineup and Pageau if needed can play the second-line role.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau New York Islanders
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Pageau, while a valuable player to add to the roster, isn’t enough for the Senators to move DeBrincat. However, if Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello adds a draft selection in one of the upcoming drafts, it could sway Dorion. The Senators will ask for the Islanders’ 2024 selection in the second round and if Lamoreillo is willing to part with the pick, a deal can be made.

The Red Wings’ Realistic Offer

The Red Wings are hoping to return to the playoffs after struggling to do so in each of the past seven seasons and adding DeBrincat not only makes them a playoff team but a contender in the Eastern Conference. That said, GM Steve Yzerman won’t make a deal that can set the team back in the long run. They have one of the best prospect pools in the NHL and have young players that can be traded in a blockbuster deal, but they hope the young skaters become an integral part of a competitive roster soon.

Steve Yzerman Detroit Red Wings
Steve Yzerman, General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

As a result, the most likely offer the Red Wings will put together will involve a player and a future draft selection in the first round. The players that the Red Wings will look to move are middle-six forwards Robby Fabbri, Dominik Kubalik, and Jonathan Berggren.

Fabbri is a well-rounded middle-six forward in his prime at 27 years old but is still recovering from a knee injury he suffered in 2022 and he only scored seven goals and nine assists in 28 games last year. Kubalik was a pleasant surprise in the Red Wings’ forward unit, scoring 20 goals and 25 assists last season but he is 27 and a free agent at the end of next season, making him a less intriguing player to acquire. Berggren is 22 and stepped up in his first year on the roster, scoring 15 goals and 13 assists and his upside makes him the most likely player the Senators will target and similarly, the player that Yzerman will be reluctant to trade.

Dominik Kubalik Detroit Red Wings
Dominik Kubalik with the Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

A player and a first-round selection seem underwhelming for DeBrincat, who has established himself as an elite player with 187 goals and 186 assists in six years in the NHL. However, the Senators can build a contending team with those pieces. Kubalik would add depth to the wing while Berggren could be another young skater to add to a forward unit that has multiple elite skaters 24 years old or younger. While the offer is an acceptable one for Dorion, he will look to find a better one in the coming weeks.

The Islanders’ Best Offer

The one wild card that Lamoriello could use is throwing Wahlstrom into an offer to sweeten the deal. There’s a lot of unknowns surrounding the 23-year-old forward who missed most of last season with an injury but his upside is what makes him a valuable skater. Ideally, the Islanders keep Wahlstrom as he can open up the offense from the wing but he has yet to sign a contract, a possible sign that Lamoriello will look to trade him, especially for a player like DeBrincat.

Oliver Wahlstrom New York Islanders
Oliver Wahlstrom, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Wahlstrom has a shot that can make him an elite forward in the NHL. Playing alongside Tim Stützle, he can find plenty of open looks on the net to make the Senators’ offense one of the best in the NHL. Wahlstrom added to a deal could allow the Islanders to acquire Debrincat while giving the Senators a strong return. If the deal is made, Dorion would walk away with Pageau, who can center the second or third line, Wahlstrom, who can be an elite top-six winger, and a second-round draft selection.

The Red Wings’ Best Offer

Ideally, Yzerman doesn’t budge from his offer. However, if he is willing to add one more piece to secure DeBrincat, it would be a prospect defenseman, specifically, a left-side defenseman. The Red Wings have a surplus at the position in their farm system and can move any of them in a blockbuster deal. Simon Edvinsson is their top defense prospect and as a result, will be untouchable in a deal. Instead, the four skaters that Yzerman can look to move are Jared McIsaac, Donovan Sebrango, and Shia Buium.

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McIsaac is 23 years old and has been developing with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League (AHL). While he isn’t a two-way player, with only eight goals and 38 assists in the past two seasons, his ability on the defensive end can catapult him to the NHL level. Sebrango is a 21-year-old skater and like McIsaac, has played the last two years with the Griffins. He will play next year in the final year of his entry-level contract which makes him a player that Yzerman will look to move. Buium meanwhile is more of an unknown at 20 years old as he’s spent the past two years developing at the University of Denver in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) but he’s a player the Senators could take a chance on.

Jared McIsaac
Jared McIsaac, Detroit Red Wings, Sept. 2018 (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The young defenseman would not only make a DeBrincat deal work but it would fill a need for the Senators on their roster. With Artem Zub, Jake Sanderson, and Jacob Bernard-Docker playing the right side of the defense, the team needs one left-side defenseman to round out the unit. Jakob Chychrun was acquired at the trade deadline last year and Thomas Chabot plays a top-pair role and the team only needs one skater to take on a few minutes each game. A young skater like McIsaac, Sebrango, or Buium would do just that. If one is thrown into a deal that already has Berggren and a future first-round selection in it, Dorion will be a satisfied GM.

Which Deal Would The Senators Take?

Both Jacob Billington and Dayton Reimer, who cover the Senators for THW, agreed that the Red Wings have the best offers on the table. Ideally, the Senators will land Berggren but even if they acquire Fabbri or Kubalik, the offer they receive from the Red Wings will be more enticing than the one the Islanders can provide.

Lamoriello, if he wants, can throw in a prospect to swing the deal in his favor. If he is willing to part with William Dufour or Robin Salo, he could possibly land DeBrincat. However, that would require the Islanders to trade up to four assets to acquire one player and Lamoriello is reluctant to overpay for a star. When he acquired Bo Horvat at the trade deadline, he was willing to move three. While DeBrincat is a great player, it’s hard to see the Islanders pursuing him in exchange for multiple assets.

The Senators don’t have a lot of leverage in the DeBrincat sweepstakes. However, if they have two teams they can negotiate with, they could end up with a strong return. The Islanders and Red Wings are both interested in acquiring DeBrincat and that could allow the Senators to field a strong offer this summer.

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