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Over The Boards

Mailbag: What's next for Jets, Flames, Panarin, McLellan

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the April 24 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which runs every Wednesday. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

How do the Winnipeg Jets shake up their lineup this offseason after a first-round exit? Who could potentially be on their way out and who do they retain to continue to build around? -- @k_corpstein

The Jets have a good team and I think they're building toward something special. There can't be an overreaction to a six-game loss to the St. Louis Blues because that could set them back instead of moving them ahead. That's why I like that coach Paul Maurice will be back next season. If Winnipeg struggles early, maybe then it makes a move, but the Jets are better served by keeping as much of the status quo as possible. That won't be easy, though, with all of their free agents-to-be. 

The focus should be on the key pending restricted free agents. They need to get forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor under contract. Each is coming off his entry-level contract. Laine scored 30 goals in what wasn't a very good season for him, and we learned Monday he was playing through a back injury. If healthy, he could score 50 next season. 

Jacob Trouba is another pending RFA who played this season on a one-year, $5.5 million contract. That doesn't mean the defenseman will be back, which leads me to where I think the biggest changes will be coming: the blue line. Trouba's contract demands could be too difficult for Winnipeg to handle, given its NHL salary cap situation. 

The cap is expected to be at or around $83 million. Laine and Connor are going to cost the Jets a lot in their next contract. Winnipeg already is tied into long-term contracts for defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (average annual value of $7.6 million), forward Blake Wheeler ($8.25 million), center Mark Scheifele ($6.125 million), forward Nikolaj Ehlers ($6 million), center Bryan Little ($5.291 million) and goalie Connor Hellebuyck ($6.167 million). Defenseman Josh Morrissey will be up for a contract after next season. Defensemen Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot are also pending unrestricted free agents, and Joe Morrow is a pending RFA. The Jets could offset some changes at the position by elevating Tucker Poolman and Sami Niku, who could be ready for full-time NHL duty, but their defense will not stay the same. It can't.

 

What will be the Calgary Flames' goaltending situation going forward? -- @bfeintuch14

David Rittich should re-sign. He's a pending RFA. Mike Smith can become an UFA on July 1, and unless the Flames can't find a better option, I expect the 37-year-old will hit the market. The Flames need to find some competition for Rittich and they shouldn't settle for it being solely in-house candidates Jon Gillies or Tyler Parsons. They'll have to look outside the organization. They could try to throw a lot of money at Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets), but forwards Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett each is a pending RFA in need of a contract, and that will eat away at some of Calgary's cap room. Going after Bobrovsky also means Rittich could become the backup or a potential trade chip. 

If Calgary wants to go with a 1A-1B goaltending situation like it had this season with Rittich and someone else, pending UFAs Robin Lehner (New York Islanders), Petr Mrazek (Hurricanes) and Semyon Varlamov (Colorado Avalanche) are options. Lehner and Mrazek are likely in line for multiyear contracts after thriving on one-year contracts this season. Lehner is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and already has the Islanders in the Eastern Conference Second Round. It's possible the Islanders and Hurricanes will try to bring each goalie back. Varlamov is in the last year of a five-year contract and I expect he will get to market. If none of those options are good enough for the Flames, they could bring back Smith on a one-year contract and try to re-create what they had this season. It worked in the regular season, when they had 50 wins and 107 points. 

Video: Avalanche defeat Flames in five games

 

Why do you think the Lightning fell apart the way they did after winning 62 regular-season games? -- @tblightning491

They fell apart because they believed whatever they did in the regular season was going to work the same way in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That rarely happens. 

The Lightning dominated the first period of Game 1 against the Blue Jackets and had a 3-0 lead. I remember tweeting that it was the nightmare scenario for Columbus. It wasn't because Tampa Bay tried to keep adding on. The Lightning thought they could get six, seven or eight goals, as if scoring that much would have mattered. They needed to lock the game down and let their defense feed their offense. They didn't and gave the Blue Jackets room and life. It was arrogance on Tampa Bay's part, and coach Jon Cooper said as much.

The Lightning said all the right things after Game 1, but by the end of Game 2 they were out of control and their penalty kill was officially a problem (3-for-6), Kucherov was headed for a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety and they trailed the series 2-0 after a 5-1 loss. It was everything that didn't happen to them in the regular season. Then they went into safe mode in Game 3, and that wasn't the solution because they're not a safe-mode team. They weren't drawing power plays (none in Game 3) and they were struggling on the PK. Their best players weren't producing. Victor Hedman, their Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, was out with an injury. Worse yet, they knew what was happening to them and they couldn't stop it. They trailed 2-0 less than four minutes into Game 4 and lost 7-3. It started with their arrogance in Game 1.

 

Two favorites for Artemi Panarin are the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers. Who do you think has the upper hand and where do you think he lands? -- @KREIDERMAN20

Joel Quenneville swings it for me. On April 8, when the Panthers named Quenneville their coach, they also became the favorite to land Panarin on July 1. Panarin, who is entering the second round of the playoffs with the Blue Jackets, played two seasons under Quenneville with the Chicago Blackhawks. He won the Calder Trophy at 25 years old in 2015-16 and had 151 points (61 goals, 90 assists) in 162 games with the Blackhawks. The Panthers might also go after Bobrovsky. Panarin and Bobrovsky are represented by the same agent, Paul Theofanous. For Panarin, though, the thought of being coached by Quenneville, joining a team built to win now, the chance to play with elite centers Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck, the great weather, the proximity to South Beach, and the possibility Bobrovsky could join him makes Florida the favorite.

 

With Todd McLellan out, who would be the best candidate for the Buffalo Sabres coaching position? Do the Sabres trade any of their bottom line forwards like Zemgus Girgensons or Johan Larsson for picks or depth scoring? When does Alexander Nylander make the jump to the main roster? -- @SPGavin0409
 
There hasn't been much noise around the Sabres' coaching search and I wonder if that means they are waiting for some assistants who are with teams still in the playoffs. I don't mind if the Sabres go after another assistant instead of a proven coach after the two-year experiment with Phil Housley as coach didn't work out.  

That's why I keep coming back to Lane Lambert and D.J. Smith as possibilities. Lambert has been an assistant under Barry Trotz with the Nashville Predators, Capitals and Islanders. He's in his eighth season as Trotz's assistant and deserves credit for the Islanders being the best defensive team in the NHL this season after being the worst last season. Lambert deserves credit for getting the Capitals to buy into playing an all-around game that fueled their Stanley Cup run last season. 

Smith has been with Mike Babcock and the Toronto Maple Leafs since 2015-16 after winning a championship coaching Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League. He has also been focused on defense and has helped Toronto improve its group, especially Morgan Rielly. These are strong assistants who have taken the long road.

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