Do you think the Carolina Hurricanes have a realistic shot at the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season in a tough division? I think we made huge steps this offseason. -- @paulwshannon
Yes. The video will come out Sunday, when the Hurricanes portion of our 31 in 31 series runs, and in it you will hear me pick Carolina to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. I'm a believer in coach Bill Peters, and I'm a fan of what general manager Ron Francis and the organization have done this offseason.
A lot of this depends on how goalie Scott Darling fares going from a backup with the Chicago Blackhawks to Carolina's starter. One of the hardest jumps to make in hockey is going from being the backup to the No. 1. There's more playing time, more exposure and more pressure. Darling was excellent as the backup to Corey Crawford. Now he must nail being the No. 1. Provided he does, I do think the Hurricanes are a playoff team.
Carolina is always a strong possession team and doesn't hurt itself with penalties. The penalty kill and center depth is stronger with the addition of Marcus Kruger. Victor Rask and Jordan Staal can handle centering the top two lines, especially with the expected continued development of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Elias Lindholm. Jeff Skinner is a potential 40-goal scorer. Justin Williams can still produce, and his leadership will help a young forward group. I can see Williams being Carolina's captain with Skinner as the captain in waiting.
The Hurricanes defensemen, particularly the top four of Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce, is strong yet underrated. All four can move the puck, skate, join the rush and keep possession in the offensive end.
Carolina has been taking the proper steps toward becoming a playoff contender under Peters. The Hurricanes made a run for the playoffs last season by going 10-5-5 in their final 20 games, including 9-0-4 before a 1-5-1 finish. They fell short. They won't this season.
Video: CAR@MIN: Skinner wires home a one-timer for a PPG
What will happen to Mikael Granlund? Do to the Minnesota Wild have too many big contracts already? What can they do to get better? -- @HannesKari
The Wild have about $4.8 million in NHL salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.com, after signing Granlund to a three-year, $17.25 million contract worth $5.75 million per season. They need to get forward Marcus Foligno under contract and fill out their depth, including at least two forwards and another defenseman who can come from their system and be decided in training camp.
Forward Nino Niederreiter's five-year, $26.5 million contract, which he agreed to Monday, provided the framework for the Wild to sign Granlund before his arbitration hearing, which was scheduled for Aug. 4.
The question of what can the Wild do to get better isn't so easy to answer. They were good last season. They had 106 points and were second in the Central Division. They simply flamed out against the equally good St. Louis Blues in five games during the Western Conference First Round. I'm not sure what the Wild can do to be better other than to say they need to get back to the playoffs and find a way to score some goals. They scored eight goals in five games, including three in the first three games. That's why they fell behind 3-0 in the best-of-7 series. Get back to the playoffs and score. That's it.
Video: MIN@COL: Granlund picks the corner from sharp angle
Do you think Jaromir Jagr will sign in the NHL? If you think he does, where do you see him going? -- @glushbeats
Though I understand the lure of potentially playing for the Czech Republic in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, I don't think representing his country perhaps for the last time is enough for Jagr to choose to leave the NHL. He knows this is the best league in the world and he wants to prove he is still among the best. I think he'll sign, and I predicted he'd go to the Calgary Flames in my July 12 mailbag. That's a total shot in the dark prediction based on three things: 1) Calgary has the salary cap space to sign Jagr to what could be in the range of a $4-5 million contract; 2) Calgary has room up front and the potential to play Jagr in a top-six role; and 3) Jagr has never played for a Canadian team and the Flames are on the rise and would be an exciting team to join, especially with Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and a strong group of defensemen.
I could also see the Edmonton Oilers being an option for similar reasons. So are the Montreal Canadiens, but are they a team on the rise? Not so sure about that.
Again, it's a guess, because nobody, perhaps not even Jagr, knows what Jagr is thinking. But he's 45 and has value in the NHL. He scored 46 points last season with the Florida Panthers, and was one of 119 players to have at least 30 assists and one of 123 players to have at least 46 points last season. He also was one of 99 players to play all 82 games. I think a team should sign him, but it may not be until just before training camps open.
Video: FLA@BOS: Jagr nets wrister through traffic for PPG
Is playoff success possible without an elite player? Example: The Nashville Predators get Ryan Johansen and make the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. -- @briantodd34
Short answer: No, playoff success isn't possible without an elite player.
Long answer: I think it's a moot point because every team in the NHL has at least one elite player.
The good teams build around their elite player with good depth, especially on defense, which leads to strong special teams and good-enough possession numbers. That's how they overachieve and get to the playoffs. Examples are the Ottawa Senators (Erik Karlsson) and Blues (Vladimir Tarasenko).
The elite teams have multiple elite players and fill in around them the same way. Examples are the Pittsburgh Penguins (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and, when healthy, Kris Letang), Washington Capitals (Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby), and the Blackhawks (Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith). New to the club are the Predators (Johansen, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi) and Oilers (Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Cam Talbot).
However, let's remember that the Predators were tied for 15th team in the NHL standings last season with Johansen playing 82 games and scoring 61 points (14 goals, 47 assists). They were not an elite team in the regular season. Let's also remember that Johansen had season-ending surgery on his leg before Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks. The Predators won Games 5 and 6 without him because they had an elite defense and excellent goaltending. They won because they had enough depth up front, particularly at center, to overcome his loss.
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Johansen strikes on early breakaway
John Tavares to the New York Rangers? The Toronto Maple Leafs need to sign key players and won't have much cap space, so where do you see him going? -- @HeyimbanuPeter
I'm holding firm that Tavares will eventually sign a long-term contract to remain with the New York Islanders. People looked at July 1 as a deadline for him to sign a new contract. No. It was the first date he was eligible to sign a new contract. Tavares and the Islanders have plenty of time to get this done.
If it doesn't happen, I do not think for one second he'll wind up with the Rangers. The Canadiens make the most sense, especially with Tomas Plekanec ($6 million) coming off their salary cap after this season. Tavares is going to cost $10 million plus, but at least losing Plekanec's charge would offset some of that.
Regardless, I don't think it'll matter. I think the Islanders will re-sign him.
Video: NYI@CAR: Tavares buries game-winner in overtime
Will the Rangers make a move for a top center this offseason? -- @ConnorNilan
The Rangers have their top-two centers, Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes. The quicker Rangers fans get used to that the better. It'll take a blockbuster trade for the Rangers to land a center who will play ahead of Zibanejad and Hayes. I don't see that happening, especially since they have a shade over $3 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.com, and teams simply don't trade a No. 1 center unless they absolutely must. It's possible the Rangers could land a No. 3 center in a trade, but they're prepared to go into the season with Zibanejad and Hayes as the top two. They agreed to terms with Zibanejad on a five-year contract that pays him $5.35 million per season on July 25. He is their guy.
Video: NYR@NJD: Zibanejad fakes, goes five-hole for OT win