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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Sizing up Atlantic Division, Golden Knights' glut on defense

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Aug. 16 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run periodically during the offseason. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

How do you see the Atlantic Division playing out? It seems to be the most wide-open division. -- @Smitty0717

I agree that it is wide open. Maybe it is the most wide open of the four because you can make a case for all eight to be a Stanley Cup Playoff contender, although I find it hard to make a strong case for the Buffalo Sabres. However, I predict three teams from the division will make the playoffs because I think the Carolina Hurricanes will join the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets as playoff teams from the Metropolitan Division.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will rebound and contend for the division title. I like the Montreal Canadiens because of Carey Price. They have issues, but Price is good enough to get them into the playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs will continue to rise. They'll be a top-three team in the division this season with the Canadiens and Lightning.

Video: TBL@MTL: Kucherov nets his 40th goal of the season

The Ottawa Senators overachieved last season. They'll take a step back, especially with the loss of Marc Methot on the top defense pair. It's an underrated yet significant loss, and they did not replace him. The League will also know what to expect from coach Guy Boucher's passive 1-3-1 system and should be able to attack it better.

The Florida Panthers should be better than they were last season, but only if their core players stay healthy. Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad missed a lot of time last season because of injuries. Still, they won't be enough.

The Detroit Red Wings have a chance to have three solid scoring lines with Henrik Zetterberg, Frans Nielsen and Dylan Larkin at center, and Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm on the wings. However, the Red Wings are not deep on defense, and they have uncertainty in goal. It makes it hard for me to believe they'll be a playoff team.

There are too many questions about the Boston Bruins defense, backup goaltending (Tuukka Rask can't continue to play as much as he has or the Bruins will risk diminishing returns) and bottom-six depth for me to believe they're going to be a playoff team.

The Sabres really are a crapshoot. I don't know what to expect.

Video: Carey Price is named No. 1 Goalie

 

How do the Vegas Golden Knights handle their plethora of NHL defensemen? Who is most likely dealt, or do they hold on to them all? -- @k_corpstein

They won't hold on to all of them. They have 11 defensemen on an NHL contract, including 10 who are waiver-exempt. Shea Theodore is waiver-eligible because he's still playing on an entry-level contract. If they hold on to all of them, they'd have to go through the waiver process with a few of them, and that puts them at risk of losing players for nothing. That's not what general manager George McPhee intended when he made the picks. I expect McPhee will be actively trying to trade two or three defensemen before the start of the season. Options likely will crystalize after training camp opens. Players get injured or underperform. Teams get to see what they have and what they need, and then they go for trades. McPhee's position was stronger in June and early July than it is now, but a few injuries around the League will strengthen his position again. It's too early to determine who will be targeted and who is most likely to be dealt. I'd be guessing without direction at this point.

 

Do you think a trade for Matt Duchene as a second-line center would work for the New York Rangers? -- @Bell__Bottom

No.

Duchene makes $6 million. The Rangers have approximately $3.05 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. Right away, the math doesn't work. You'll say they can trade out salary to make room. Nice theory, but who goes? Who would the Colorado Avalanche want from the Rangers to make room for Duchene? The most common name in trade rumors involving the Rangers is defenseman Nick Holden. Forget for a moment that Holden's cap charge is $1.65 million, so trading him only gets them about halfway toward affording Duchene, I'd be shocked if the Avalanche want Holden. They had him and traded him to the Rangers last June. Why would they want him back? The Avalanche want a young defenseman who has top-pair potential. From the Rangers, that's Brady Skjei. New York is not trading Skjei. Anthony DeAngelo is not proven enough. And Skjei and DeAngelo each is on an entry-level contract, so the money wouldn't work. Stop wondering about Marc Staal getting moved out too. I think his $5.7 million salary cap charge is too difficult to trade.

So, no, I don't see Duchene as an option for the Rangers now. Maybe things change in the winter, but that's assuming Duchene is still on the trade market in January or February. He could be traded before the start of the season, and any team that acquires him likely sees him as a major piece to a championship run, so they aren't going to get him just to move him.

Video: CHI@COL: Duchene buries Nieto's feed for SHG

 

Would the Anaheim Ducks be a suitable landing spot for Shane Doan? -- @PrinceJantzen

He would be, especially to play with Antoine Vermette on the fourth line. However, I wouldn't do it if I were the Ducks. Why sign a right wing who turns 41 on Oct. 10 and is coming off statistically his worst season (six goals, 21 assists in 74 games) since his rookie season of 1995-96? The NHL is getting younger and faster; I'm not speaking out of school by saying that getting Doan is getting older and slower. I'm as big a fan of Shane Doan as anybody, but I wouldn't sign him if I were an NHL general manager unless injuries forced my hand. When in doubt, I'd go with a younger player. And it's not as if Anaheim needs another veteran leader and dressing-room presence. They have Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Vermette. They also have Ryan Miller. They have enough of those players.

Video: ARI@SJS: Doan goes five-hole for power-play goal

 

Is this the year Nail Yakupov finally earns his draft position? Any reason at all to think he's the answer for the Colorado Avalanche? -- @briantodd34

No and no.

Yakupov will never earn his draft position. He was the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. I don't care that he's 23 years old because he's been in the NHL for five seasons and has played 292 games. He might improve, but he'll never live up his pre-draft hype. He'll never live up to potential that comes with being the No. 1 pick. He more than likely is what he is with a little bit of room for growth.

I see Yakupov in a third-line role for the Avalanche, and they'd get great value out of him if he were to produce between 10-15 goals and 30-35 points. That would be ideal for any player on a one-year, $875,000 contract. Maybe he pulls a Sam Gagner and puts up a 50-point season to earn himself a multiyear contract worth millions. That's what Gagner did last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He signed a three-year, $9.45 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1. Yakupov has shown no signs that he's capable of doing that though. He had nine points in 40 games for the St. Louis Blues last season. He was routinely scratched by coach Mike Yeo. His best season was 2014-15, when he had 14 goals and 33 points in 81 games, but he also was minus-35.

Nothing suggests Yakupov will be the answer anywhere, but he could be a decent role player for the Avalanche.

Video: NJD@STL: Yakupov scores on odd deflection

 

What will the Detroit Red Wings do about their salary cap situation? And what about Thomas Vanek? I've been hearing he wants to go back to Detroit. -- @KylerW019

The Red Wings will be over the $75 million cap after they sign Athanasiou, who is a restricted free agent, and put Johan Franzen on long-term injured reserve. They're going to have to waive or trade one or two players, depending on the cap charges involved. I don't think they'll do anything until the preseason schedule is well underway. Much like the Golden Knights with their defense, the Red Wings don't have to rush this now. I'd go the trade route before the waiver route because this way they can at least get something for a player they may lose. They could lose a player for nothing if he gets claimed off waivers. Forward Riley Sheahan is an obvious trade commodity with one year left on his contract and a $2.075 million cap charge, according to CapFriendly.com.

As for Vanek, considering the Red Wings' salary cap dilemma, I don't see how they can be in the market to sign a veteran forward. He was good in Detroit, so I have no doubt that he'd be interested in returning, but the Red Wings don't have the cap space to sign him, and it's unlikely at this point that enough will open.

Video: FLA@BOS: Vanek scores after a fortunate bounce

 

Who will become the New Jersey Devils' first-line center? -- @zwinks220

Travis Zajac will start the season as the Devils' No. 1 center. Nico Hischier will eventually become their No. 1 center. At least that better happen for the Devils because they used the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft on Hischier and he's supposed to be good enough to be the No. 1 center. To start, though, I can see the Devils go with Zajac, Hischier, Pavel Zacha and Brian Boyle as their four centers, in that order. That means Adam Henrique gets pushed to the wing. Put him on Hischier's left wing and it'll take some pressure off the rookie. That is all predicated on Hischier being good enough to make the team out of training camp.

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