COL NYR for 32724 mailbag

Here is the March 27 edition of the weekly mailbag, where we answer your questions asked on X. Send your questions to @drosennhl and @NHLdotcom, and tag it with #OvertheBoards.

Who do you predict wins the Presidents' Trophy and why? -- @nyrprpokemon

The New York Rangers.

The Rangers have the easiest schedule of the seven teams who are all within three points of each other (Rangers, 100 points; Boston Bruins, 99; Dallas Stars, 99; Vancouver Canucks, 98; Florida Panthers, 97; Colorado Avalanche, 97; and Carolina Hurricanes, 97).

The Rangers have 10 games remaining, six at home. Two of their remaining nine opponents were in a playoff position entering Tuesday (at Colorado on Thursday, home against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 11). They also play the New York Islanders twice, the Arizona Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators once each. On top of the friendly schedule, the Rangers are 15-1-1 against their remaining nine opponents this season (not including the game against the Flyers on Tuesday, a 6-5 overtime victory).

Defensemen Jacob Trouba (lower body), Ryan Lindgren (lower body) and Erik Gustafsson (upper body) did not play Tuesday, but the Rangers are not alone in the injury department. Trouba and Lindgren could be back soon. The Rangers also have a game in hand on the Hurricanes, which could come in handy.

NHL Now: Current Presidents' Trophy race, more

With Auston Matthews and William Nylander locked up for the Maple Leafs, if they fail to reach the Eastern Conference Final, would this be the time to move Mitch Marner knowing he has one year left on his deal? -- @punmasterrifkin

No. The Maple Leafs need to re-sign Marner before next season. He's too important. If Marner was just another player who puts up points but has limitations in other areas of the game, particularly away from the puck, then the answer would probably be yes. If that were the case, he'd be replaceable, maybe not at the same level of production but at least close to it and with a player making less money than the $10.9 million he makes annually. Marner, though, is the Maple Leafs’ do-everything forward. He plays big minutes, handles tough matchups, plays on the power play AND the penalty kill, and he does it all well. He's a Selke Trophy-type of player. Last season, he finished third in the voting for the trophy that goes to the best defensive forward. He could win it one day. You don't trade players like that unless you're getting back equal value. For the Maple Leafs, they can't win a trade involving Marner unless they're getting back an elite No. 1 defenseman who, like Marner, is in his prime, 26 years old going on 27. So, if you can tell me they're getting Quinn Hughes for Marner then I'm all for it. But that's not happening. Cale Makar? Nope. Adam Fox? Nope. Rasmus Dahlin? I doubt it. Noah Dobson? That seems unlikely.

The most realistic thing for the Maple Leafs to do is sign Marner to a long-term contract before next season and project their NHL salary cap out from there with the likelihood that he and fellow forwards Matthews and Nylander will account for roughly $38 million starting in 2025-26. But the salary cap is going up. It's projected to be $87.7 million next season. It could be north of $90 million by the time Marner's new contract begins. Forward John Tavares will either be off Toronto's cap entirely or making less than his current $11 million by then. His contract also expires after next season. Marner is too valuable to the Maple Leafs to move on from him regardless of what happens this season.

ARI@TOR: Knies snipes it in from Marner's drop pass to open the scoring

What do you hear about Gabriel Landeskog's possible return in 2024? -- @paultorlina

Landeskog is trending toward a return to the NHL at some point this calendar year, but this season seems like a longshot for the Avalanche captain. Chris MacFarland, Colorado's general manager, told me last week that Landeskog is still a long way away from taking contact, doing stop and start drills, turns, spins and the like. He's skating, which is great, but he had cartilage transplant surgery in his right knee on May 10 and was given a timeline of 12-16 months before he could potentially return, MacFarland said. He's not even at 11 months yet. Twelve months would be in the second round of the playoffs. That's the short end of the recovery period and the Avalanche would have to still be playing. Even if they were, Landeskog hasn't played a game since June 26, 2022, the night the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. To put a player who hasn't played in nearly two years into the lineup in the second round of the playoffs, when the hockey is as hard as it's been all season, would be a risky move that could backfire badly on the Avalanche. MacFarland knows that. As he said in my Q&A with him, "We have a significant amount of term left with Gabe so we're going to do and he's going to do what's in the best interest of him long term, not to try and hurry back." Landeskog is signed for five more seasons after this one and the Avalanche want him to be a part of their future. They don't want to risk that by putting him on the ice too soon. The best thing to do is to wait, give him a summer to continue to rehab, a full training camp, exhibition games and go from there.

Brad Shaw, the Flyers associate coach, took over for John Tortorella during his suspension. Is this a sign for things to come? Could Tortorella be moved up into management and Shaw take over as coach? -- @theashcity

Anything can happen, but this isn't going to happen. Shaw took over when Tortorella was suspended for two games (March 12, 14) because he is the associate coach and that makes him the next in the line. Shaw has been with Tortorella since 2016-17, Tortorella's second season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. They were in Columbus together through the 2020-21 season. Tortorella didn't coach in the NHL in 2021-22; Shaw was an assistant for the Vancouver Canucks. But Shaw joined Tortorella in Philadelphia shortly after he was hired by the Flyers in June of 2022. They have a longstanding working relationship and Shaw's time as an assistant in the NHL goes back to 1999-2000. There could be a time when he becomes a head coach, perhaps even of the Flyers, but it would be shocking if that happened because Tortorella went upstairs into a management role.

Tortorella is a coach. He's not an executive or management type. The Flyers have general manager Danny Briere and president of hockey operations Keith Jones. They need Tortorella to do what he does best. He thrives on being in the trenches with the players, pulling the best out of them, guiding them, leading, rewarding them when they earn it and pushing them when he believes they can deliver more. In less than two full seasons with the Flyers he has built a culture of accountability in their dressing room that was not there before he arrived. Argue his methods if you want, and surely there are some that can be debated, but there is no argument against his success as an NHL coach and the ability to sustain it through generations of players.