How likely is it that the Chicago Blackhawks move a core piece like Niklas Hjalmarsson? -- @k_corpstein
There's an extremely good chance someone goes. I can't say for sure it'll be Hjalmarsson. I'd say unlikely as of now because he has a no-movement clause and a modified no-trade clause in his contract, according to CapFriendly.com. In the end, I think the Blackhawks are going to protect Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Hjalmarsson from being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft. However, I can't rule out the possibility of Hjalmarsson being traded to create some cap space. He is a solid, reliable, experienced defenseman with two years remaining on his contract and a cap-friendly $4.1 million salary-cap charge. There are a lot of teams that would covet a player like him on that contract. Much to their dismay, if the Blackhawks need to create cap space, Hjalmarsson could be one to go.
There also are many reports now that Trevor van Riemsdyk could be on the move to Vegas or elsewhere. And it's well known across the League that the Blackhawks are trying to trade Marcus Kruger to Vegas to get rid of what CapFriendly.com has as a $3.083 million salary-cap charge the next two seasons. I have not done specific reporting on this. Kruger is the one that makes the most sense to go, but if it's to Vegas, he'll have to go in a package with another player or draft picks. Vegas isn't going to do the Blackhawks any favors here.
Chicago undoubtedly is a team to watch in the coming days.
Do you think Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang will end up getting their numbers retired by the Pittsburgh Penguins along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? -- @Godoy_IL
I'll say no on Fleury and TBD on Letang.
Think about the numbers that will be hanging in Pittsburgh. Mario Lemieux's 66 already is up there. So is Michel Briere's No. 21. Briere died nearly 11 months after a May 15, 1970, automobile accident in Quebec following his promising rookie season. He was 21. No one wore his number again, and the Penguins officially retired it in 2001. Jaromir Jagr's 68 will go up whenever he retires. Sidney Crosby's 87 and Evgeni Malkin's 71 are locks. Does Fleury rank on that list? I think it's iffy, and that's taking absolutely nothing away from Fleury. I'm not sure how many players in the world would rank on that list. Fleury has been an excellent goalie, a consummate teammate and the ultimate pro for the Penguins, but a number retirement, to me, is reserved for the elite, and that's why it's so rare and such an honor when it happens. Fleury should be honored with a special welcome-back night next season (I obviously highly doubt he'll be returning to the Penguins), and when he's retired he should be brought back into the organization if he wants to be a part of the organization.
Letang still has more work to do, but he can get there if he comes back healthy, manages to stay healthy, and maybe even helps the Penguins win the Stanley Cup again. A few more seasons of being one of the top defensemen in the NHL should get Letang's No. 58 retired in Pittsburgh.
Video: Fleury waives his NMC for the Expansion Draft
Now that Fleury is not being protected, has Vegas found its first goalie? How does this affect the expansion draft? -- @hstempin92
You'd have to think so. You'd have to think the Golden Knights will pick Fleury and he will be their No. 1 goalie going into the 2017-18 season. And, by the way, that would be a terrific way to start. Fleury would embrace the chance to be a No. 1 again, and I think he would embrace the change and the originality in Vegas. He's such a good person that the Golden Knights could use him as a role model for the type of players they want in their organization. They can market Fleury because he's a big enough name. He'll help sell hockey in Vegas and he'll give the Golden Knights a chance to win because he's a good goalie.
The impact is that Vegas would need to fill out its goaltending depth with cheaper backup options. Fleury is set to make $5.75 million for the next two seasons. The Golden Knights must select at least three goalies. My guess is they'll pick at least four. It's the most important position and you need organizational depth. And competition at the position, especially for a backup job, is obviously good too. They have to take a minimum of 14 forwards and nine defensemen too.
Do you think the New York Rangers will get Kevin Shattenkirk? -- @Zblisko27
I keep thinking this is less and less likely to happen. I keep thinking it's more and more likely that the Rangers look to make a trade. I speculated in an earlier mailbag about them trying to acquire a right-handed defenseman like Justin Faulk from the Carolina Hurricanes in a trade for a core forward, perhaps Chris Kreider or J.T. Miller. I haven't heard anything of the sort from anyone on that since, but now is the time when trade talk picks up. Maybe they will look to do something along those lines. I think they should.
The other thought I have is maybe they bring back Brendan Smith and then try to incorporate some of their prospects (Sean Day, Sergei Zborovskiy, Neal Pionk, Alexei Bereglazov, Ryan Graves and John Gilmour) into the mix. Maybe one or two of them could be players for the Rangers this season. Going younger on D is a good idea for the Rangers.
The Rangers announced Wednesday they will buy out the final three years of defenseman Dan Girardi's contract. Girardi, 33, had an annual salary-cap charge of $5.5 million and the move will free up cap space to help New York sign Shattenkirk.
Video: WSH@PIT, Gm3: Shattenkirk nets PPG for OT win
What happens with Evander Kane? -- @Smitty0717
Great question. Indications up until now are that Kane will be traded. There have been reports that the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings could be linked to Kane. We'll see on that. You'd have to think the conversation with Vancouver starts with Christopher Tanev and with Los Angeles it starts with Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez.
But here's another thought: What if the Kane situation depends on the person the Buffalo Sabres hire as coach?
Let's say it's Penguins assistant Rick Tocchet. That might mean Kane stays, or at the very least it could tip the scales in favor of Kane staying. I can see a scenario that has Tocchet excited about the potential of getting the best out of Kane. He has worked so well with the Penguins forwards, especially Phil Kessel. I'm not comparing Kessel to Kane, but I think Tocchet has a way of coaching high-end skill players that could benefit Kane if he's willing to work, listen and learn. Why wouldn't he be? He hasn't won anything in his NHL career. Tocchet has won a lot.
However, if it's Nashville Predators assistant Phil Housley, it might mean Kane goes. Housley is a Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman and he'd probably want to beef up the Sabres defense. Buffalo general manager Jason Botterill should do that anyway, but Tocchet might want Kane to stay and Housley might want him to go, especially if he can get a defenseman in return.
Kane has one year remaining on his contract. If he stays, the Sabres have to see how it goes early, and if the returns are favorable, then go to work on a contract extension. If they can't get it done, they have to trade him before the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline.
Video: BUF@TBL: Kane nets Gionta's pass for 300th point
Do you think the Dallas Stars should pick at No. 3 or trade down a few spots and get more picks? If they pick, who would you take? -- @Captainhairdoo
Trade the pick if they can get a top-six forward or a top-pair defenseman in return. Stars GM Jim Nill has talked openly about his willingness to trade the pick for an established player. It makes sense. Ken Hitchcock wasn't hired to coach a rebuilding team. He was hired to bring the Stars to the next level quickly. They can do that with another two-way forward or a smart, puck-rushing defenseman. Remember, Dallas has the Anaheim Ducks' first-round pick (No. 29) too. They got it in the Patrick Eaves trade on Feb. 24. And if they trade the No. 3 pick, they might be able to get back another late first-round pick in the deal. Can they get an established player and a first-round pick for the No. 3 pick? Let's see what Nill can do, but I'd definitely look to trade the pick.