The New York Rangers waived a former top ten 10 on Thursday, making Dylan McIlrath available for teams to claim by 12 PM Friday. McIlrath, who was selected ahead of the likes of Cam Fowler, Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Hayes, and Evgeny Kutznetsov, never panned out in New York, serving as the No. 8 defenseman on the roster at the time of his release.
Last season McIlrath was afforded a greater chance at the NHL level, as he played in 34 games. The big-bodied defenseman managed two goals and two assists to go along with 64 penalty minutes, often working as an enforcer in the lineup.
We previously discussed the reasoning behind McIlrath’s issues with the Rangers organization here at Today’s Slapshot, but the motivation does not lend itself to every organization. With that, it would be surprising if McIlrath is not claimed by at least one team.
Every organization should be interested in claiming a cheap defenseman with plenty of potential for nothing other than money, but some fits are better than others. Let’s take a look at the teams that should be most eager to bring in McIlrath.
The Oilers recently had to promote Matthew Benning to fill their hole on the right side, as the organization boasts a plethora of left-handed options and a scarcity of righties. Edmonton prides itself on their ability to throw the body around, a trait that McIlrath is known for as well.
McIlrath knows goaltender Cam Talbot well from their days with the Hartford Wolfpack together, and the Oilers are doing all they can to continue their winning ways. Adding a defenseman to the mix would be wise for a team that is lacking depth and is still looking to stockpile young talent.
The addition would giveBenning more development time, while taking some of the pressure off of newcomer Adam Larsson in the process, as well.
New Jersey Devils
What better way to stick it to an archrival than to take a player they hope they can sneak through waivers out from under them? New Jersey would be depleting the depth of the Rangers while increasing its own defensive depth in the process.
There is a great need in the Devils organization for young, talented defensemen. For the present, New Jersey hosts only Ben Lovejoy and Damon Severson as right-handed defensemen, leaving a clear vacancy for McIlrath to fill.
The Devils’ defensive group of Yohann Auvitu, Andy Greene, Ben Lovejoy, John Moore, Kyle Quincey and Damon Severson is hardly inspiring, and giving McIlrath a sizable role playing in front of an all-world goaltender in Cory Schneider could do wonders for his development.
Toronto Maple Leafs
In a situation similar to the Oilers, the Toronto Maple Leafs have spots available for young, talented players. The big difference between the Oilers and Maple Leafs is that the Oilers are having success this season while the Maple Leafs are not, but the general idea remains the same.
Since Toronto committed to their rebuild, the Maple Leafs organization has taken a long look at any players that could possibly help the team in the present or future. The Maple Leafs have been active in the waivers process, even recently picking up Ben Smith off of waivers.
There is no obvious opening in the lineup for McIlrath unless Roman Polak is scratched, but there is no harm in the Maple Leafs claiming McIlrath, having him work with the coaching staff to learn the Maple Leafs style of play, then inserting him into the lineup when they need him.
The most appealing part of waivers is that as long as McIlrath is not demoted by his new team, he will be a part of their organization. The Maple Leafs could treat McIlrath as this year’s Frank Corrado–a nightly healthy scratch last season–or they could have him learn on the fly. Regardless, he would be yet another young addition with no risk involved. Moves like that are how re-builds become successes.