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Over The Boards

Jimmy Vesey's future team among questions's Dan Rosen answers weekly mailbag

by Dan Rosen @DRosenNHL / Senior Writer

Here is the Aug. 10 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run periodically through the course of the offseason. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

Less than a week away from a decision from Jimmy Vesey. Where do you think he'll end up? -- @rayguarino

I'm still leaning toward the Buffalo Sabres. The wild cards are the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers offer New York and an organization in need of some young blood to help Henrik Lundqvist in the final few seasons of his prime. The Blackhawks offer Chicago, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, a rich recent history of winning, and the chance to do it again. The Maple Leafs offer a roster filled with young players, most of whom Vesey is older than, with a fantastic coach, strong organizational structure and the ability to help turn things around in the biggest hockey market on the planet. Although the Boston Bruins are Vesey's hometown team, if I'm him, I'd be scared off by the direction they're going right now. He's only signing a two-year contract, so if he wants to win quickly or rise with a team ready to win soon and be a part of that core, Buffalo, Chicago, Toronto and New York fit those categories better than Boston.

The Sabres are a team on the rise with players in Vesey's age bracket. Could Jack Eichel and Vesey be to the Sabres what Toews and Kane have been to the Blackhawks? That might be a stretch considering all that Toews and Kane have accomplished, but the point is they could be Buffalo's 1-2 punch. Vesey can grow with the Sabres and be a part of the core general manager Tim Murray keeps around for a long time. Buffalo also has a spot for him in the top-six forward group right now. He can start the season with Eichel as his center and maybe Kyle Okposo on the right wing. If that doesn't work, maybe it works with Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart.

Who do you think is in a better position to become the starter for the Pittsburgh Penguins next season, Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray? -- @hj012345


Murray would be the easy choice. He led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup. He's 22. It would seem illogical at this point for Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford to leave himself in a position where he would have to expose Murray in the NHL expansion draft next summer. You'd have to think if Murray were available, Las Vegas GM George McPhee would pick him and hope he could be the goalie of the future in the League's newest market. With that in mind, you'd have to think Rutherford would be looking to trade Fleury either before the season or during the season, even though he repeatedly has said he is not exploring that option, in order to ensure he can protect Murray without any issues. Fleury has a no-trade clause, so he would have to agree to any trade and to being exposed in the expansion draft, but if he's not going to be the No. 1 in Pittsburgh, the thought is that he'd agree to waive his NTC in order to go elsewhere.

However, Fleury didn't get bad overnight. He's going to compete for his job. He is motivated to win his job back. He's the one who knows how to handle the rigors and grind of an 82-game NHL season as a No. 1 goalie. He's also the biggest reason the Penguins survived in the playoff race last season before it all came together for them in March. If he were healthy entering April, he would have been able to help Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup the way Murray did.

Rutherford will have to solve the dilemma with the expansion draft dilemma one way or another, but it's wrong to assume Fleury's time in Pittsburgh is near over.

Are the New York Islanders shopping Jaroslav Halak? He needs to be the odd man out. -- @JordanGreif

The Islanders are tight-lipped, so I can't say with certainty that they're shopping him, but I don't think they'd be opposed to a trade, provided it's a fair deal. I'd be less inclined to consider trading Halak if he were a dominant but injury-prone goalie, because that would mean when he's in net, you're getting elite goaltending. Halak hasn't been an elite goalie for the Islanders, but he has been injury-prone. It's not ridiculous to think they could be equally as good with Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube splitting time in the net instead.

However, Halak will count for $4.5 million against the salary cap this season and next. That's an issue. It's hard to trade injury-prone goalies with term left on their contracts because there are so few teams in need of a No. 1 goalie. Are there any at this point? Halak is scheduled to play in the World Cup of Hockey 2016 for Team Europe. If he has a strong showing and there's an injury to another No. 1 goalie elsewhere, maybe his stock rises enough to the point that the Islanders can trade him.

If Carey Price were still hurt, would the Montreal Canadiens be a better or worse team than they were last year? -- @RichardObrand

They wouldn't be a playoff team, and that's all that should matter. Price is the most valuable player in the NHL because of how important he is to the success of the Canadiens. To see the way they crumbled without him is proof of how valuable he is to them. Other playoff contending teams with elite goalies like the Rangers, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning wouldn't have fallen as flat as the Canadiens did without Price. They're built better than the Canadiens. That said, I think Montreal is a playoff team with a healthy Price. He makes that big of a difference.

Do you think Patrik Elias still fits into the New Jersey Devils roster or do you think it's better off he retires? -- @AlexGrablauskas

He fits if his right knee is 100 percent and won't cause him significant problems through the course of training camp and the regular season. It's up to Elias and it's a wait-and-see. A decision isn't expected until closer to training camp.

Elias had surgery on his right knee on May 8. He also had surgery on the same knee on Jan. 12. Two operations on the same knee in the span of less than four months for a player who is now 40 years old obviously is a big problem for his playing future.

However, if Elias can play, the Devils would welcome him back. There are no issues with the salary cap, and Elias wouldn't command a huge amount on a one-year contract. He would fill a necessary role as an experienced forward who can fill a top-six role but would be fine in a bottom-six role too. He proved in the regular-season finale last season he can still fill up the score sheet: He had a goal, two assists and a plus-4 rating in a 5-1 win against the Maple Leafs.

If Elias decides to call it a career, scoring three points in his last game is a heck of a way to go out. I also wouldn't expect a long wait for his No. 26 to join Nos. 30 (Martin Brodeur), 27 (Scott Niedermayer), 4 (Scott Stevens) and 3 (Ken Daneyko) as the retired numbers in Devils history.

Who are the top five teams in the Central Division? Do you think the St. Louis Blues sink to the bottom and miss the playoffs? -- @chm1691

To answer the second question first, I still like the Blues as a Stanley Cup Playoff team, especially with the emergence of forward Robby Fabbri last season. They still have a lot of firepower up front, a top-10 defense with Kevin Shattenkirk in the fold, and it's Jake Allen's turn to prove he can be a No. 1 goalie. Captain David Backes and forward Troy Brouwer left in free agency, but the emergence of Fabbri and the addition of David Perron will help offset those losses.

As for the top five teams in the division, I see it like this:

1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. Nashville Predators
3. Dallas Stars
4. St. Louis Blues
5. Minnesota Wild

Filip Forsberg: Over/under 39.5 goals, 70.5 points? Mark Scheifele: Over/under, 70.5 points? -- @T_Faltin

For Forsberg, I'd say under on the goals and over on the points. Getting to 40 goals is quite an accomplishment in the NHL today, and although I can see an improvement on his 33 from last season, I'm not sure if I can see a seven-goal improvement. However, I do think four or five extra goals and four or five extra assists from the 31 he had last season is possible. If he tacks on four in each category, that would put him at 72 points. He had 64 points in 82 games last season, but that was after a tough start. He had 13 points in his first 23 games, which is 0.565 points per game. He had 51 points in his last 59 games, which is 0.882 points per game. Forsberg is ready to take the next step and get closer to being the 0.882 points-per-game player over a full season. If he gets to 72 points and plays 82 games, that's 0.878 points per game. He'll get there if he stays healthy.

For Scheifele, I'm ready to say over if he plays 82 games. He averaged 0.859 points per game last season (61 points in 71 games). If you spread that out over a full 82-game season, that's 70.45 points. I only see his production growing, especially if Patrik Laine and Blake Wheeler are going to be on his wings. So if he stays healthy, I'm saying 71 points or more is feasible for Scheifele.

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