Is the Stanley Cup Coming to New York?

The East may be tough to escape, but could the New York area see a Stanley Cup championship coming to them in a few months time?

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Historically, the NHL trade deadline has never been seen as interesting. Unlike other sports, it has never had the same flashy exchanges featuring superstars—mainly due to the hard salary cap, which severely limits how much money a team can spend. There were few times, if any, when hockey deals garnered the same excitement and press attention that other trade deadlines got. Unlike past seasons, this year saw aggression from general managers weeks before the trade deadline. Most big name trade targets ended up going to the Eastern Conference in a trade war that quickly became known as the “arms race” by many. However, the three New York-area teams still managed to stand out amongst the crowd.

The New York Islanders, who are currently battling for a coveted Wild Card spot, were the team that set the ball rolling. Over a month before the deadline, general manager Lou Lamoriello made a huge swing, trading a first-round pick, top prospect, and roster player for Vancouver Canucks captain and center Bo Horvat. Horvat, who at the time was the Canucks’ leading goal scorer, immediately helped the Islanders keep pace in the Wild Card race. Not only did he score timely goals in his first few games, but he filled multiple essential roles. From the start, Horvat strengthened the Islanders’ penalty kill and power play and helped elevate some of the team’s weaknesses into strengths. A few weeks after the initial move, Lamoriello pounced on a Toronto team desperately trying to clear cap space and acquired 6’4” forward Pierre Engvall for a low draft pick. Though he never produced much during his tenure in Toronto, Engvall is well-known as a highly skilled and speedy wing who can play up and down the lineup. Now, one can look at the Islanders and their middling position in the standings and question why they would be a “buyer” at the deadline. However, anything can happen come playoff time. There is no better example of this than the Islanders themselves, who made back-to-back runs to the Conference Finals only a couple years ago despite beginning the playoffs as low-seeded underdogs.

The other New York team, the Rangers, saw these moves from their crosstown rivals and decided to make some of their own. The Rangers’ general manager Chris Drury acquired vaunted sniper and winger Vladimir Tarasenko and defenseman Niko Mikkola from the St. Louis Blues for a package of mostly draft picks. Though the expected production was not there at the start of his Rangers tenure, Tarasenko soon proved his pedigree by scoring five points in three games along with linemate and friend Artemi Panarin. However, the Rangers were not done there—in fact, they were far from it. In a deal that had been rumored for weeks, they traded for star wing Patrick Kane from the Blackhawks for a package that only included minor draft picks. Kane, another friend of Panarin, is widely considered to be one of the best American hockey players of all time and is famous for his flashy offense on the ice. By doing this, the Rangers bolstered their depth and skill throughout their lineup. Not only has this made them even more of a playoff threat, but it has casted them into the serious Stanley Cup contender conversation—even in a conference as deep as the East.

Even the New Jersey Devils managed to make a big splash. Despite entering this season as non-contenders, they cemented themselves as a playoff lock and made it known that they would be loading up. They formed a deal for San Jose Sharks star Timo Meier, sending a huge package west that involved prospects and a plethora of draft picks for the 26-year-old winger. He was only an addition to an already exciting young core in New Jersey, featuring former first overall picks Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. Meier immediately made an impact in his first game as a Devil, scoring a goal and showing both his defensive and offensive prowess. Though the Devils are a young team with little playoff experience, they certainly have the offensive tools to make a deep run in the postseason.

This year’s trade deadline was one of extremes, with the Western Conference teams selling off stars to Eastern Conference juggernauts. The East may be tough to escape, but could the New York area see a Stanley Cup championship coming to them in a few months time? Fans will have to wait and see—it should be a blast come playoff time.