Let’s imagine a world where, like the NHL, a trade deadline looms in women’s hockey.
What could each NWHL team do around the deadline to improve their chances at a cup this year or next? For the sake of suspension of disbelief, let’s pretend the players can relocate without concerns about money or location.
The Whitecaps can score. The only team with a better goal differential is the Pride who are on some crazy other hockey plane of existence. Both Amanda Boulier and Sydney Baldwin are notably high-offense defenders, but they also block an insane number of shots and are responsible in their own end. Being able to play them together could be the difference between a narrow win and narrow loss against a stacked Pride team.
In order to do that, the Whitecaps could really use a dominant player on a second D-pair. If Jordan Brickner wasn’t injured she could be a good option, but as it stands the Whale are still in the best position to sell at defense. The Whitecaps are never going to have a problem recruiting top-level talent from the area, so losing draft picks, or the rights to a young forward, wouldn’t hurt them. Former Whale players Sam Donovan or Nina Rodgers, both Minnesota natives with East Coast college careers, would be great to send the other way if either were willing to play with the Whale next season.
Nina Rodgers had 4 points (2g2a) in 15 games with the Whale last season and has registered two assists in 5 games with Minnesota this year. Putting her on a line with Vlasic or Weber, or installing her in front of the net on the powerplay, could pay dividends for a Whale team starved for scoring. Taylor Marchin has 2 assists in 21 games so far this season with Connecticut, but the Whitecaps wouldn’t need her to score. She’s blocked 29 shots and moves the puck very well in addition to being a strong skater and an imposing physical presence.
To the Whale: Rights to Nina Rodgers (F) and the Whitecaps’ first-round draft pick
To the Whitecaps: Taylor Marchin (D)
The Pride don’t really have much of a weak link. There’s absolutely no way they’d sell at this fictional deadline, nor should they.
The Whale need to have an eye on their future. They’ve struggled for a few seasons, but this year, especially the second half of the season, we’ve seen glimmers of potential for them to become something else entirely next year. They really need scoring help. Assuming they think they can get Marchin back as a free agent in the summer, and assuming someone like Marchin would be of interest to the Whitecaps for a playoff run this year, they could try to squeeze some help at forward and a draft pick out of the Whitecaps. They also have three goalies who have seen playing time, which will be relevant in a second (the Riveters section, if you want to skip ahead).
Building a relationship with UConn and Quinnipiac through something like an exhibition game and keeping an eye on graduating seniors who are Connecticut natives could turn that draft pick into a real game-changer for the building Whale. Nina Rodgers had a good season with them last year, but has only gotten into six games for the Minnesota Whitecaps this year. Given the ability to play a larger role on a team with the right pieces in place, I think she could be something really special in this league. She might also welcome the possibility of more playing time.
To the Whale: Rights to Nina Rodgers (F) and the Whitecaps’ first-round pick.
To the Whitecaps: Taylor Marchin (D)
The Riveters are in a tough spot. With their starting goaltender Sam Walther nursing an injury pre-dating the All-Star break and standout Kate Leary apparently week-to-week, they really need a boost if they’re going to shock the Whitecaps in their semifinal. This may be an unpopular opinion, but they don’t need scoring help, in spite of being shut out by the Pride this past weekend. They could really, really use a starting goaltender.
But where do you get one? You basically have two options: the Whale and the Beauts. Both teams have three goaltenders that have seen game time this season. Something tells me a trade between the Riveters and Beauts would be unlikely at best, even in this heavily hypothetical universe. If the Whale have committed to being sellers, they could easily — with one or two games left — spare a goalie, especially since they’re likely to ride the hot hand in Brooke Wolejko.
I think Sonija Shelly would be a good choice for the Riveters. Cassandra Goyette is a capable backup for Wolejko, should she need it. Shelly played between 15 and 20 games in her final two seasons at St. Lawrence and had a pretty good save percentage. She would, at the very least, give the Riveters a fighting chance against the Whitecaps. The Riveters historically have been unable to sign many of their draft picks, so sending one to the Whale shouldn’t hurt too much.
To the Riveters: Sonjia Shelly (G)
To the Whale: The Riveters’ second-round pick.
The Beauts need to beat the Whale to keep their season alive. There are many things that could help the Beauts finish the season, but I’m not sure any of them can be had in the league right now. The Beauts would have no leverage to trade with the Pride or Whitecaps, who don’t need draft picks, and can’t spare any pieces to trade otherwise. That being said, I think that the Beauts, with the late-season addition of Lewicki, have what it takes to make it to a semifinal anyway.
They have had a really hard time against the Pride and Whitecaps, but at their worst what they’re missing isn’t something that would be fixed by trading for a particular kind of player. They’re just a young, learning team. But they’re capable of beating the Whale and, in my opinion, at least giving the Pride a hard time in a semifinal. They have the pieces and we’ve seen those pieces click. They need to stay out of the box and stay organized, but a trade won’t make that happen.