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E.J.'s Mailbag: Pens' FA failings, 50 for Kovy?

by EJ Hradek

On Tuesday, The Tennessean's Josh Cooper reported Shea Weber's agent, Jarrett Bousquet of Titan Sports Management, said he and the Predators were still having talks in regard to adding a no-trade and/or no-movement clause to Weber's newly-minted 14-year, $110 million deal.

If I were running the Preds, those "talks" with Bousquet concerning those additional clauses would be short and not-so-sweet.

My answer: No!

Nashville is under absolutely NO obligation to add such a clause to the deal. In fact, as you might be able to pick up, I think they'd be amazingly, incredibly foolish to do so.

When Weber decided to sign the offer sheet from the Flyers, he got the money he was seeking (and them some!), but he gave control of his future to the Predators, who, as I predicted, matched the offer.

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Now, he'll have to live a life without a no-trade or no-move clause. Oh well. I think we all wish we had it so bad.

Let's take a dip into the mailbag to answer some of your questions. Remember, you can follow me on Twitter (@ejhradek_nhl).

Do you think the Penguins dropped the ball by not signing any free agents? -- @wickedspecv

Well, I'm sure general manager Ray Shero would've loved to have added a high-end free agent like Zach Parise or Ryan Suter. In fact, he made a strong pitch for both players. For personal reasons, Suter had no desire to play in the Eastern Conference, while Minnesota-born Parise was drawn to the idea of returning home as well as teaming with Suter.

In the end, you just can't force someone to sign with your team. I figure Shero and his management group will continue to look for ways to add to their team for the coming season. Still, with guys like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang at the top of their roster, the Penguins again will be a very formidable foe.

With Travis Zajac dishing exclusively to Ilya Kovalchuk, could this be the year we finally see him hit 50 goals as a Devil?

A gifted goal-scorer like Kovalchuk is always a threat to crack the 50-goal barrier. He did it twice in Atlanta (52 goals in '05-06 and another 52 in '07-08), but hasn't hit the 40-mark in his two full seasons in Jersey, scoring 37 times last year.

I can't imagine working alongside Zajac (who missed most of last season due to injury) on a more regular basis would hurt. The lanky pivot is a clever playmaker that also can finish around the net.

While it seems natural that Zajac and Kovalchuk will skate together on the top line, head coach Peter DeBoer might have some other ideas that he'd want to experiment with throughout the season. After all, coaches do like to shuffle their line combinations.

Ilya Kovalchuk
Ilya Kovalchuk
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 37 | ASST: 46 | PTS: 83
SOG: 310 | +/-: -9
All that said, I can see Kovalchuk getting up over the 40-goal mark and challenging for his third 50-goal season. He's just too talented a goal-scorer.

As for Zajac, he is entering the final year of his contract. Under the current CBA rules, he can become a free agent on July 1, 2013. If that doesn't change in a new system, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello will have to make sure he can re-sign his top center or risk having him leave just like Parise did last month.

What are the odds we ever see another World Cup of Hockey? -- @TheDustySloan

That's an interesting question. This type of event, which we last witnessed in the late summer/early fall of 2004, is a joint venture between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association. I would suspect that if the sides believe there is money to be made in staging this elite-level international tournament, we'll see another one. If not, there would be little sense in moving forward with it again.

Of course, the NHL's decision on whether it will send its players to future Olympic tournaments impacts the potential for other international elite tournaments like the World Cup. That decision on future Olympic participation could be finalized in the current collective bargaining process. Stay tuned!

When we get started again, who do you think the starting goalie will be for the Leafs? -- @gmcallister15

James Reimer
James Reimer
Goalie - TOR
RECORD: 14-14-4
GAA: 3.10 | SVP: 0.900
I think it'll be James Reimer. I think the Leafs like Reimer, who missed significant time last season due to a concussion. After an impressive rookie season in 2010-11 (he posted a .921 save percentage in 37 games), GM Brian Burke gave him a three-year contract. To me, that's a pretty strong vote of confidence.

Now, if you're asking me do I think the Leafs will trade for Roberto Luongo, I'd say it's possible, but not likely. I believe Luongo most likely will land back in Florida.

Are you hearing any news on P.K. Subban contract negotiations? -- @RonGiotu

I'm hearing that Subban is interested in doing a longer-term deal, while the Canadiens are looking at something shorter. I'm guessing that he'd like to take advantage of the current CBA rules that allow for the longer-term commitments. Those rules are set to expire on Sept. 15 and that's something that could change in a new deal.

For me, Subban is a talented player that still has lots of upside to his game. He's also a confident guy. That's part of the reason why he can be a difference-maker on the blue line. I figure that confidence might factor into making his current negotiations with the Habs take a while longer. Confident guys can be a little stubborn. That's OK, though.

I believe Subban's best play might be taking the short-term option (two years?) and improving his value through his on-ice performance. After that, if he continues to develop like I think he will, he'll be better positioned to make a bigger deal.

At some point, I believe the sides will come to an agreement on a new contract. I don't think it would be in the team's best interests to trade a high-end talent like Subban.

What's the biggest plus for the Blackhawks heading into next season? -- @_daj92

Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews
Center - CHI
GOALS: 29 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 57
SOG: 185 | +/-: 17
I'd say a healthy Jonathan Toews and a rejuvenated Patrick Kane. And I'd throw in a return to good health for Marian Hossa, who suffered a concussion during the team's first-round series loss to the Coyotes.

The Hawks, who are just a few years removed from winning a Stanley Cup, remain a talented group. Like all NHL teams, they have a few holes they'd like to fill. Ideally, GM Stan Bowman would like to find a second center to slide between Toews and Dave Bolland on the club's depth chart.

Their biggest problem can be found in their crease. I'm not sold on the goaltending tandem of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. I think the Hawks will have to address that somewhere down the line.

Speaking of the future, there are several sharp scouts that believe the Hawks added something special when they selected Finnish prospect Teuvo Teravainen with the 18th pick in June's draft. Teravainen's continuing development will be something for Hawks fans to keep an eye on in the coming years.

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