Here is the Feb. 3 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday in the Over the Boards blog during the 2015-16 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.
Let's get to it:
Who is the sleeper team to watch in the second half of the season? -- @HW06
The Carolina Hurricanes.
Coach Bill Peters has had the Hurricanes playing a good brand of hockey all season. They play to their strengths as a puck possession team that can cycle the puck and grind out wins. They're 15-7-4 since Dec. 5 and yet they get very little publicity. I'm as much to blame for that as anyone. I've thought about putting the Hurricanes in the Super 16 in the past two weeks, but they haven't quite gotten there. Maybe they should have been in. A win at the Calgary Flames on Wednesday would give them three in a row and four in their past five games.
If their goaltending holds up, the Hurricanes are going to keep sniffing around the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. Look out for them.
What number do you think Steven Stamkos gets if he signs with the Tampa Bay Lightning? Do you still think he stays in Tampa? -- @bailetim
The number will start with at least a 9 -- as in $9 million or more per season -- and he will stay with the Lightning on a long-term contract. The number could easily start with a 10, as in $10 million per season, but I figured I'd be conservative here. I also have a gut feeling this gets done before the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29. I say gut feeling because I don't have any concrete evidence through reporting that it will happen. But after talking with Stamkos during All-Star Weekend, hearing him reiterate that he wants to stay in Tampa, I think it's only right to take him at his word. I also believe the Lightning, especially owner Jeff Vinik, want to make it happen. Don't yell at me if I'm wrong. There isn't much in the way of hard information coming out about these negotiations because the two sides are trying to keep a media blackout on them.
Video: Stamkos joins the NHL Tonight during ASG Media Day
Do you see the Calgary Flames as buyers or sellers at the deadline? Should we just count the season as a loss and get picks? -- @Ablest_rM
At this point, with 26 days remaining until the deadline, it's hard to predict what the Flames are going to do because their season has been so up and down. I think they need more time to figure out who they are and if they can be legitimate contenders in the Pacific Division. The good thing is the division is wide open after the Los Angeles Kings. It'll take one hot streak, a solid 10-game stretch, and they could be right in the mix. But if that doesn't happen this month, the Flames should look to trade some of their valuable assets such as forward Jiri Hudler and defenseman Kris Russell. They can be unrestricted free agents after the season and Calgary general manager Brad Treliving can get something in return for those guys. I think that's his best move.
The Flames pressed the fast forward button on their rebuild last season by making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They almost needed a season like this one to come back down to earth. It shows that rebuilds take time. They're going about it the right way with a lot of young players and a short list of long-term contracts belonging to core players (defensemen Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie and Dougie Hamilton). They need better goaltending and more depth up front. A hot streak could change opinions for this season, but I'm not sure that's a good thing.
Do you think the Chicago Blackhawks can hold on to first place in the Central Division? Are they a favorite to win the Cup? -- @MSchael17
Yes and yes.
The Blackhawks are the best team in the Central Division and one of the best in the NHL. They are the deepest team and they have excellent goaltending. Corey Crawford has been fantastic. I also trust general manager Stan Bowman is going to make a trade or two to bolster Chicago's depth to make them the favorite to reach the Stanley Cup Final from the Western Conference. If they get to the Cup Final, they'd have to be considered the favorite based on their experience alone. Don't confuse that for me saying they'll win it though.
The Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues -- the two teams that right now appear to be the best shots at catching the Blackhawks -- have some issues. The Stars need help on the blue line. Their offense also went to sleep for a bit. The Blues go cold sometimes, too cold for me to consider that they can make up the points to catch the consistent Blackhawks.
In your opinion, can Petr Mrazek carry the Detroit Red Wings on a deep run this spring, or what pieces will they require for a long run? -- @purdstheword22
Mrazek is legit, the real deal in my opinion. I think he can be a goalie that helps the Red Wings go on a deep run. I think he has the proper skillset and mindset to do it.
To be honest, I find the Red Wings to be remarkably interesting even if they've sort of been on a straight line of average this season in so many statistical categories. They can score, but they don't overwhelm you. They don't give up a ton of goals, but they're not a top-10 defensive team by any stretch. Their special teams are just OK. But the stat that stands out to me is their 18-5-8 record in one-goal games. That tells me that they can handle playing in the tight games and they have the wherewithal to come out ahead most of the time. They've actually only lost eight one-goal games in the flow of play. Three of their losses have come in the shootout, which doesn't exist in the playoffs. I think the Red Wings could make a run.
It would be good if GM Ken Holland could bolster the depth, particularly on defense. He's obviously not shy about making trades, but the cap situation could make it difficult. It'll be interesting to see what Holland does, but the Red Wings intrigue me because of their success in those one-goal games.
Do you see the Minnesota Wild making a significant trade? If so, who are some of the guys that could fit into their system? -- @mustang_goalie5
Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said in Nashville during All-Star Weekend he thinks the answers are in the room, indicating his preference would be to avoid making a significant trade because he likes the roster he put together. That being said, if things don't change for the Wild quickly, you can be sure that Fletcher is going to exhaust all options to make a trade that would upgrade Minnesota's offense. He has the ability to trade from a position of strength (defense) in order to add some skill up front. Fletcher doesn't want to trade a young player for a rental, but I keep coming back to Kyle Okposo as a player that in my opinion would fit with the Wild. However, Okposo, who is from Minnesota, would be a rental unless he re-signed with the Wild. It's wait-and-see time for Fletcher right now, but give it another week or two and I think we'll all have a better idea of what he might want to do.
Are this year's New York Rangers the team that started out hot, or the team that had a bad December? -- @eli_chesner
The Rangers weren't as good as their record in the first quarter of the season and they weren't as bad as their record in the second. They're a good team with flaws, too many flaws to make me think of them as a legitimate contender to win the Stanley Cup this season. That group includes the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay is on the fringe, but playing its way back in. The Rangers are not good enough to be in that group.
They don't score enough. They're not getting enough out of Rick Nash. Kevin Hayes is frustrating to watch, because he has a lot of skill and strength but he doesn't use it enough. Chris Kreider's development has stalled, and that's bad. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have had tough seasons with glaring deficiencies in the defensive zone. Dan Boyle hasn't done enough to help the Rangers' power play, which limits his overall effectiveness.
They have Henrik Lundqvist, who has found his game again. Ryan McDonagh is a No. 1 defenseman. Mats Zuccarello is an excellent player and a big-game performer. Derick Brassard is too. They have a lot of good pieces, but not enough of them. They need more out of Nash, Hayes, Kreider, Girardi, Staal and Boyle. I really wonder if they can get more out of any of those players.