Liane CBJ and NYR mailbag

Here is the July 10 edition of the mailbag, where we answer your questions asked on X. Send your questions to @drosennhl and @NHLdotcom, and tag it with #OvertheBoards.

Do you foresee any major blockbuster moves this offseason or was the July 1 flurry the last of the excitement until the season starts? -- @baYsYckwrYteboY

It's quiet for now, but you never know when the blockbuster is lurking around the corner. Don't forget that two years ago the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers executed the trade involving Matthew Tkachuk, Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar on July 22, nine days after the free-agent market opened on July 13. But there are questions involving some players that have not been answered yet.

Will Mitch Marner be traded, re-signed, or go into the season, the last on his six-year contract ($10.903 million average annual value), without his future with the Toronto Maple Leafs ironed out? The same question is being asked of Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers. He's entering the last of an eight-year contract ($8.5 million AAV).

Will the Winnipeg Jets trade Nikolaj Ehlers, who has one year remaining on his contract ($6 million AAV)?

There's been a lot of smoke and rumors about the New York Rangers and if they're going to be able to move defenseman Jacob Trouba, who has two years left on his contract ($8 million AAV). Will they?

We know the Columbus Blue Jackets want to move forward Patrik Laine, who has two years left on his contract ($8.7 million AAV). When will that happen, if they're able to find a trade partner?

Is Martin Necas going to remain with the Carolina Hurricanes or will they trade him? Necas is a restricted free agent.

That's just some of what is still lingering out there in the marketplace. Could any of it lead to a blockbuster before the season begins? No guarantees, of course, but it's certainly reasonable to say yes.

How do you see a Patrik Laine trade being executed? Is this similar to the Evgeny Kuznetsov trade? Are the Capitals in the mix for Laine? -- @samb999

It could be similar to the Kuznetsov trade on March 8 to the Carolina Hurricanes. In that trade, the Washington Capitals sent Kuznetsov to Carolina for a third-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft. Washington retained 50 percent of Kuznetsov's remaining salary cap charge ($7.8 million AAV). Columbus is likely hoping it can do better in a trade involving Laine.

Laine is 26 and Kuznetsov is 32 (he was 31 when he was traded). Laine's AAV on his contract is higher ($8.7 million) and he's signed for two more seasons, but his upside is greater than Kuznetsov's given his age and goal scoring ability.

The issue is he remains in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program and it's impossible to determine when or if he will be released from that program. Any team acquiring Laine has the right to know exactly what is going on and what his availability will be. That is a big reason why the Blue Jackets have so far been unsuccessful in trying to trade him.

It's hard to envision a scenario where a team takes on Laine's full AAV. Columbus will have to retain salary to make this move work. But with his age, maybe the Blue Jackets can get a second-round pick, if not a first-round selection, in moving him.

As for teams in the mix, that is hard to determine, but the Capitals don't appear to presently have the cap space to take on Laine's AAV, even if it's cut in half to $4.35 million, unless there is clarity on T.J. Oshie's future. If Washington has to put him on long-term injured reserve, it'll free up $5.75 million off its cap. The other way to do it is to send a player back to Columbus in the trade, but that will likely be a player plus the draft pick, not one or the other.

How would you rate the job Kyle Dubas has done? I'm missing a clearcut strategy. -- @hausismojoe

It's hard to rate the job Dubas has done as Pittsburgh Penguins general manager because the job is not even close to finished. He's in the early stages of the job he wants to do.

He's trying to ride the fine line of staying playoff relevant while the Penguins still have Sidney Crosby and also start to plan for life after No. 87. That is the strategy and it became obvious at the 2024 NHL Draft, when Pittsburgh acquired center Kevin Hayes from the St. Louis Blues.

A few years ago, Hayes would have been the main part of that trade. He was not this time. Instead, the Blues attached a second-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft to the trade so the Penguins would also take Hayes and his $3.571 million cap charge for the next two seasons. The Penguins traded future considerations. The key for them was to get the draft pick. It is a bonus if Hayes helps Pittsburgh stay a playoff contender this season and next. The Penguins wanted the draft pick. Hayes might help them stay relevant in the short term. The draft pick helps them plan for the long term. That's Dubas' job. It's hard and it will remain hard. To rate the job he's doing now would be unfair.

Are the Rangers still Stanley Cup contenders even though they've made almost zero improvements to their team? -- @GosnellMike7


Let's analyze this properly instead of making wild, off-the-cuff observations because the Rangers didn't hit the proverbial home run in free agency.

They won the Presidents' Trophy and reached the Eastern Conference Final, losing to the team that won the Stanley Cup. That team, the Florida Panthers, has lost some key pieces since winning the Cup, including defensemen Brandon Montour and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and depth forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan Lomberg, Kevin Stenlund and Kyle Okposo.

Meanwhile, the Rangers replaced Barclay Goodrow with Sam Carrick, a fourth-line center swap, and, assuming they go this route, it'll be Zac Jones and not Erik Gustafsson, who signed with the Detroit Red Wings, on the third defense pair with Trouba to start the season. Maybe new addition Reilly Smith can be the answer at right wing on the line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Kaapo Kakko could get traded, but Brennan Othmann might be ready for the NHL, potentially giving New York a third line of Filip Chytil between Will Cuylle and Othmann to start the season. They have Carrick, Jimmy Vesey, Matt Rempe, Adam Edstrom and Jonny Brodzinski for bottom-six roles.

As of right now, the Rangers are returning mostly intact minus Goodrow and Gustafsson. That means they're returning the main pieces of the team that won the Presidents' Trophy and reached the conference final. If you reach the conference final, you are a Stanley Cup contender. There is no reason to believe the Rangers have lost that status just because they didn't sign a big-ticket free agent or make a blockbuster trade.

Are you a bit surprised that the Predators signed Scott Wedgewood to be the backup for Juuse Saros? I would have thought Barry Trotz and Andrew Brunette would have ran a Saros-Yaroslav Askarov tandem. From a trade standpoint, wouldn't Nashville want Askarov in the NHL to potentially increase the return? -- @LittlestOfMen

No surprise. The Predators signed Wedgewood to a two-year contract ($1.5 million AAV), buying them time to determine what is best and what is next for Askarov, who still has one year left on his entry-level deal ($925,000 AAV).

It could be that Askarov performs so well in training camp that the Predators end up burying Wedgewood's contract in the American Hockey League. Doing that won't impinge too greatly on their cap. It's plausible.

Nashville could also determine Askarov needs more seasoning in the AHL and start him in Milwaukee. A goalie who is over-seasoned in the AHL before coming to the NHL is never a bad thing.

Wedgewood's contract is for two years, but if Askarov keeps developing at the rate he is, it's likely Wedgewood doesn't finish that deal with the Predators.

Let's figure it'll be Saros and Wedgewood for the bulk of this season, and then it'll be Saros and Askarov starting in 2025-26, assuming Nashville doesn’t trade Askarov beforehand.

Remember, Saros and Wedgewood will cost the Predators a combined $6.5 million this season, because Saros' new eight-year contract ($7.74 million AAV) doesn't start until 2025-26.

In your opinion, what kinds of strides has Buffalo made for its roster during this offseason? Has it been an upgrade or not? -- @MrEd315

Judging it on small moves, the Sabres have done a solid job upgrading. They added depth up front by signing forwards Jason Zucker (one year, $5 million), Sam Lafferty (two years, $2 million AAV) and Nicolas Aube-Kubel (one year, $1.5 million), and acquiring forwards Ryan McLeod and Beck Malenstyn in separate trades. All of it is nice. Maybe in the end the depth makes the difference for the Sabres to end what is now a 13-year playoff drought. Depth is key, but only if the top end players pull their weight. That's the big question for Buffalo -- can its top-end players like defensemen Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power and Bowen Byram, and forwards Alex Tuch, Dylan Cozens, Tage Thompson, JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn do enough to make the depth matter? It seems like every year we say the same thing about the Sabres; they've made enough strides and now they're playoff ready, but every year they fail to meet those expectations. So, let's lower the expectations and see if they can be better.

Related Content