Monday, 2 May 2016

Whirlwind of trades during highly active NWHL off-season

Although free agency has not yet resulted in any player turnover, with all signed players retaining with their club team from the 2015-16 season, there have been winds of change on another front. Three of the founding four franchises (Boston, Connecticut, New York) have all engaged in a series of trades. Uniquely, each of these trades does not involve rostered players. Instead, players selected in the inaugural 2015 NWHL Draft are changing teams before even gracing the ice.

The first trade of the offseason took place between the New York Riveters and the Connecticut Whale. Swapping their second-round picks, it marked the beginning of a trend.
Taking into account that unsigned picks will result in a penalty on the salary cap for the upcoming season, it may be a case of prioritizing. Regardless, such trades will definitely alter the strategy in the method used for selecting players in this year’s draft.

Haley Skarupa, who recently captured a gold medal with the US national team at the 2016 IIHF Women’s Worlds, was the second draft pick in Riveters history. Coincidentally, Alex Carpenter, one of Skarupa’s teammates at Boston College, who scored the gold medal clinching goal for the US at the 2016 Worlds was the Riveters’ first-ever pick.

The Connecticut Whale represents Skarupa’s new home, traded for Harvard alum Michelle Picard. Both exceptional blueliners in their NCAA careers, Skarupa has more offensive flair, an element that may prove beneficial for the Whale in case they lose All-Star Kaleigh Fratkin to free agency. Should neither player sign with their new team, they will enter unrestricted free agency on May 1.

Another Boston College alum was part of the second offseason trade. Once again featuring the Riveters and the Whale, Trivigno, a fourth round pick of the Riveters was shipped to the Whale in a move with financial implications. Of note, the Whale received a $2000 draft tax towards their upcoming season’s salary cap. Considering that Trivigno and Skarupa played together for four seasons at Boston College, the Whale are anticipating that such chemistry may translate into a first place finish.

Hannah Brandt, the first-ever draft pick in Whale history becomes a member of the New York Riveters. For a team that was offensively starved in their inaugural season, Brandt may prove to be the offensive catalyst that the club sorely requires. Having won three NCAA Frozen Four titles with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Brandt amassed an astonishing 285 points on the strength of 170 assists. Her strong playmaking skills should transform her into the centerpiece of the Riveters offense, if she can be signed to a contract.

Strategically, Brandt’s acquisition makes sense for the Riveters. With the first overall pick in the 2016 NWHL Draft, the Riveters could aim towards realigning Brandt with a former Gophers player (or two). Of note, the top prospects include Golden Gophers forward Dani Cameranesi and blueliner Lee Stecklein. Brandt and Cameranesi would definitely have offensive synergy in the NWHL, ensuring that the club goes from the basement to the top sooner rather than later.

The third trade was the most shocking of all as Alex Carpenter was traded from the New York Riveters. Undoubtedly, Carpenter and her world-class skills would have made her the focal point for the Riveters and a key figure in their marketing and team strategy. Instead, she joins the Boston Pride, continuing her hockey legacy in Beantown. Having recorded 279 career points for the Boston College Eagles, part of her legacy with the program includes a Patty Kazmaier Award and an undefeated regular season in 2015-16.

Surprisingly, the Riveters only received fourth-round pick Miye D’Oench and a $2000 addition towards their salary cap. Taking into account the significant loss of Carpenter, a member of the US team at the 2014 Winter Games, the club should have pushed for a draft pick in 2016 and perhaps another player. With the extra salary cap room attributed by the trade, it is possible that the Riveters have plans to acquire top talent in free agency. For Riveters fans, they are now left to ponder “what if” concerning Carpenter.

For an excited Pride organization, the reality of a player like Carpenter is that she can have an impact on the balance of power in the league. With fellow Winter Games teammate Kendall Coyne’s rights owned by the Pride as well, these two could prove to be a titanic force, propelling the club into a dynasty status.

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