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Mailbag: Playoff predictions, Rangers defense

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Aug. 24 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:

Based on everyone's roster today, who do you think will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs from both conferences? -- @ryanmcdade33

I've been giving you my pre-World Cup predictions for the playoff teams this season in all the team specific videos that have run in our 30-in-30 series. Here is the full list:

EASTERN CONFERENCE: Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres.

WESTERN CONFERENCE: Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.

You'll notice that two teams that didn't make the playoffs last season (Montreal and Buffalo) are on my list. I knocked out the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if they got in ahead of Montreal and Buffalo. However, I think Carey Price puts the Canadiens over the top and I think the Sabres, with the additions of Kyle Okposo and Dmitry Kulikov, are ready to take a huge step.

I have the same eight teams in the Western Conference. I think the Calgary Flames will be better and can make a push, but as of now I think the other five teams in the Western Conference that didn't get in last season are a ways away from making a legitimate playoff push.

Now that the New York Rangers have signed Jimmy Vesey, what do you see as the defenseman move to make them a contender? -- @RickW235

Maybe signing Vesey triggers a trade that could help the Rangers bolster their blue line, but I think it's a long shot to happen before training camp opens. A trade would almost certainly have to involve Rick Nash because the Rangers are not going to trade away a center and they would be loath to give up on younger potential top-nine wings like J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast. They signed Chris Kreider to a four-year contract, an indication that they view him as a major part of their future. So Nash would be it, but finding a trading partner willing to take on his $7.8 million NHL salary-cap charge for this season and next, and getting fair value in return featuring a defenseman who can help their cause right now, is near impossible.

Video: Jimmy Vesey introduced as newest member of Rangers

And brace yourselves for this, Rangers fans: it's time to accept the defensemen on the roster now. I know there are a plethora of questions about the group, starting with Dan Girardi, moving to Marc Staal and Brady Skjei and ending with Dylan McIlrath, but it's time to accept this group for what it is and hope that it's good enough. To help, the Rangers need their centers to be reliable in the defensive zone. That's not an issue for Derek Stepan, but it's not a guarantee with Mika Zibanejad or Kevin Hayes. Those two have to be better two-way players than they have been in the past.

What moves do the Bruins need to make and do they intend to make major moves to get these moves done? -- @Poke_the_BearRI

They need to make a move for a defenseman, but I'm not sure if they're going to move to officially move on a trade that would land them a defenseman who can move.

Before I move on, let me expand.

The Bruins have a massive hole on their defense. Torey Krug, at least in my estimation, is their new No. 1 defenseman even though Zdeno Chara is still there and likely will play the most minutes. Chara is not the defenseman he once was. Age has started to catch up to him; he's 38 and he's slower. He doesn't turn as well as he used to. He doesn't recover as well as he used to. Chara should be playing in the neighborhood of 18-20 minutes per game on a second pair at this point in his career. Bruins coach Claude Julien can't afford to manage his minutes like that because behind Krug and Chara, Boston has a number of 5-6-7 defenseman types in Adam McQuaid, John-Michael Liles, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow and Colin Miller. They entered the offseason with the need for a top-pair defenseman and they still have that need.

Everyone is going to point to Kevin Shattenkirk because the thought is the St. Louis Blues are willing to trade him because they don't want to pay him when his contract expires after this season. The Blues, though, will keep the price for Shattenkirk unreasonably high because they are under no obligation to trade him at this point and he makes them a better team. Boston has a couple of defensemen still marinating in their system like Charlie McAvoy of Boston University and Brandon Carlo, but they are a year or more away from potentially making an impact with the big club.

The Bruins won't be a playoff team unless general manager Don Sweeney addresses the blue line.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm1: Shattenkirk's one-timer evens game at 1

Do you think Sergei Gonchar will make it to the Hall of Fame? -- @tonyneufeld88

Borderline out.

Though winning the Norris Trophy isn't a prerequisite for a defenseman to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame, especially when he played in an era dominated by seven-time winner Nicklas Lidstrom, in Gonchar's case never winning it might be what keeps him out.

Gonchar's NHL career numbers are solid, but not overwhelming; he's 17th all-time among defensemen in games played (1,301), goals (220), assists (591) and points (811). Of the 16 defensemen in NHL history with more points than Gonchar, only Gary Suter (844) and Doug Wilson (827) aren't in the Hall of Fame. However, Suter (1,145 games) and Wilson (1,024 games) scored more points in fewer games. Neither of them won the Norris Trophy either.

People will look at Rob Blake and say maybe he is a comparable, but Blake, who got into the Hall of Fame in 2014, won the Norris Trophy in 1998 and is a member of the IIHF's Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup championship, Olympic gold medal, World Championship gold medal). Gonchar won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, but he never won a gold medal in an international competition or the Norris Trophy.

It's hard for borderline defenseman to get into the Hall of Fame. It took Phil Housley nine years after becoming eligible in 2006 to get in, and his numbers blow away Gonchar's.

With all of the Toronto Maple Leafs' forward options, who fails to make the cut? Do they trade to make room? -- @kinglewimcmxc

The Maple Leafs have no reason to make a trade in order to make room for their young forwards. If they're ready to be in the lineup, they'll make it and they will push some veterans out. If they're not, they'll be in the American Hockey League. We can all assume that Auston Matthews will make the team. Though not a guarantee, it's a good bet that Mitchell Marner and William Nylander will make it too. What a great problem it will be for coach Mike Babcock if he believes one or more from a group that includes Josh Leivo, Nikita Soshnikov, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Connor Brown and Frederik Gauthier are ready for the NHL. The Maple Leafs would gladly accept that because it jives with what they're trying to do, which is get younger and build through the draft with homegrown talent that ripens and becomes NHL ready at a reasonable pace.

If Babcock and GM Lou Lamoriello had to find a way to knock out veterans like Joffrey Lupul, Milan Michalek, Colin Greening and Brooks Laich to make room for the future, they would welcome that challenge. Trading for the sake of making room doesn't make sense because the Maple Leafs don't need to rush any of their young forwards, and keeping veterans in place allows for a slower transition.

Video: 30 in 30: Toronto Maple Leafs 2016-17 season preview

Do you think the New Jersey Devils are content at defense with the group they have now? Who fills the glaring hole on the right side of Andy Greene? Is it Damon Severson, or could Ray Shero make another trade before opening night? -- @MattSuszko

The Devils can't be content. They shouldn't be content. Then again, find me a team other than the Penguins that today is content and I'll show you a team that is lagging behind. Even the Penguins' feeling of contentment is going to end soon. It's not about being content, it's about being realistically hopeful. I'm 100 percent positive that Shero would make a trade today if he thought it made the Devils' blue line better, but if that trade doesn't exist he has to rely on his educated realistic hope that Damon Severson and Jon Merrill can be impactful defensemen this season, and that Steven Santini and Reece Scarlett are ready to make the jump to the NHL. With that said, I think the favorite to replace Adam Larsson on the right side of Andy Greene is, at least at this point, Ben Lovejoy. The Devils probably would love it to be Severson, but it might be asking too much of him at the start of the season. Lovejoy's presence will allow Severson to grow into the role. If and when he does, Lovejoy can drop to the second pair to play with Merrill or John Moore.

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