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Mailbag: Hall makes Coyotes more dangerous; Islanders' future in goal's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Here is the Dec. 18 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.


How much better of a team are the Arizona Coyotes now that they have acquired Taylor Hall? -- @TJRinger1

The how much part remains to be seen, but Hall instantly makes the Coyotes a more dangerous team. He plays fast, stays low when he skates and drives the motor of an offense up the ice to generate scoring chances. 

The forward assisted on the game-winning goal late in the third period of his Coyotes debut, a 3-2 victory at the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. One game isn't enough to figure out where he fits best, but Hall comes motivated and ready to win and fit in because these next several months mean a lot to him. He has played in five Stanley Cup Playoff games in his 10-season NHL career, winning one. It's important to him to have playoff success, and teams that will line up to sign him July 1, 2020, should he get to unrestricted free agency, will feel a lot better giving Hall the big money contract if he comes to them with some playoff success. It's similar to Matt Duchene last season, with the difference being Hall has a chance to make a bigger impact in Arizona because he has more time with the Coyotes. Duchene went to the Columbus Blue Jackets from the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 22. He had no time to adjust with the Blue Jackets in a tight race to make the playoffs. They got in, and he played well in two rounds, had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 10 games, and might have increased his market value to get his seven-year, $56 million contract from the Nashville Predators. 

Hall's value is high, but if he can play well for the Coyotes and help them go on a playoff run, people will forget that he had a major knee injury that required surgery last season.

Video: NHL Tonight crew talks with John Chayka on Hall trade


If the New York Islanders bring Ilya Sorokin over, will he have to spend time in the American Hockey League or is it expected that he shares the net with Semyon Varlamov next season? -- @GLaSnoST9

If Thomas Greiss wants a multiyear contract, I don't see how or why the Islanders would do that with Varlamov signed through the 2022-23 season and Sorokin likely coming over from Russia after this season. Ideally, Greiss would still have one more year on his contract and the Islanders could have the same goalie tandem next season as they have this season, allowing Sorokin, 24, an adjustment/development season in Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. But they may have to fast track it to a Varlamov/Sorokin goalie tandem next season unless Greiss wants to come back on a one-year contract or they can find a veteran backup on a one-year contract. 

The latter is more reasonable, but the Islanders can't be in a position where they have to rely on Varlamov to play more than 50 games. That's a magic number for him. It's what he averaged the past two seasons, each with the Colorado Avalanche, and he'll likely play in fewer than 50 this season. That means the backup must be relied upon for 30-plus starts. It may be simpler and cheaper for the Islanders to rely on Sorokin for that workload behind Varlamov next season. If they believe Sorokin is ready, I expect him to be on the team.

Video: NYI@FLA: Greiss robs Connolly to preserve lead


How long do you think it'll be before the Detroit Red Wings make the playoffs again? Also, will the Red Wings buy anyone out next summer? -- @HGoldman

It's hard to put a timetable on it, especially when general manager Steve Yzerman is preaching patience. It's not going to turn quickly. Rebuilding the way the Red Wings are trying to rebuild never does. They have the NHL core now, including forwards Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi. Outside of Filip Hronek, there is a dearth of young NHL-ready defenseman. The Red Wings have a strong group of young, potential building block prospects, including forwards Filip Zadina, Joseph Veleno and Michael Rasmussen, and defensemen Moritz Seider and Dennis Cholowski. But they're all 21 or younger (Veleno is 19 and Seider is 18). They're going to graduate to the NHL level in different stages, which means you're still looking at potentially two years, if not longer, before they're all in Detroit and contributing in a meaningful way potentially with Larkin, Mantha, Athanasiou, Fabbri and Bertuzzi. 

Let's not forget too that the Red Wings haven't gotten lucky in the NHL Draft Lottery either. They had the fifth-best odds of getting the No. 1 pick in each of the past two years and dropped one spot each time to select Zadina at No. 6 in the 2018 NHL Draft and Seider at No. 6 in the 2019 NHL Draft. A No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft would be a huge boost to the Red Wings' rebuilding efforts. 

Forward Frans Nielsen is a potential buyout candidate after this season with two years remaining on a contract that carries a $5.25 million NHL salary-cap charge. Nielsen has two assists in 32 games this season.


Where does Ilya Kovalchuk go after this buyout? -- @connorjcris

I asked around and came up mostly with people telling me they think his NHL playing days are over. However, it takes one team to give Kovalchuk another shot, so it'd be wrong to say he's done. Maybe the Boston Bruins have interest. They had interest a year and a half ago when Kovalchuk eventually signed with the Los Angeles Kings. The Bruins could use a secondary scorer and a presence on their second power-play unit especially with his shot from down low. Could Kovalchuk fill those needs? That's the question any team interested in Kovalchuk has to think about, the value of those traits versus the value of a third-line player who already fits into what the team is doing, has better foot speed and more of a grinding style. 

The NHL has gotten younger and faster at a rate more intense than I think most people expected and Kovalchuk is neither young (he's 36) nor fast. But can he still score if put in more of a specialist role? He scored three goals in 17 games this season for the Kings. That's not a fair assessment of him. Kovalchuk's 16 goals in 64 games last season is more in line with what I believe he is capable of production-wise provided he can play 14-15 minutes per game and on the power play. That's 0.25 goals per game or a 20-goal pace in an 82-game season. No matter what anyone may think of Kovalchuk's age and speed, a 20-goal pace in the NHL is nothing to scoff at. Kovalchuk can still shoot it. Age hasn't dulled that skill. However, he needs to be set up and if a team is going to bring him in to help the power play it better have the right set-up players. He could be a cheap secondary scoring option, but the fit has to be perfect, which limits his potential suitors. But it only takes one.

Video: Ilya Kovalchuk placed on unconditional waivers


What will it take for the Tampa Bay Lightning to turn it around? -- @RBev3

Sticking to their identity on a game-to-game basis will go a long way. The Lightning are a speed and skill team. It's great that they added some edge, some physicality in the offseason by signing forward Pat Maroon. Nobody is going to argue against them having a little more of that so-called grind in their game, but they need to be a speed and skill team and at times this season they haven't played to their identity.

I've seen games where the Lightning are playing that way, where they're moving the puck around, finding holes, using their creativity to generate scoring chances. It doesn't always work out. The puck doesn't always go in. Luck isn't always on their side. It was last season, which is a big reason how they won 62 games. But maybe because they don't win or score enough the next game, they try to play a physical, grind-it-out game. Their creativity gets lost. They need to be who they are.

They also must avoid the big mistakes that cost teams goals, which lead to losing points here and there. They add up and suddenly you're watching the first round of the playoffs instead of playing. For examples, look at the two goals the Washington Capitals scored 45 seconds apart in the first two minutes of the third period Saturday. One is off a turnover from defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, the other looked to be a result of a miscommunication between defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak. Now a 1-1 game is a 3-1 game and the Lightning are chasing. Those mistakes will happen through the course of a season; they can't happen in those moments.

It happened twice more in their 4-3 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. No Lightning player checked Senators forward Connor Brown in the defensive zone, leaving him open to score to make it 3-2 at 4:01 of the second period. Later in the second, Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov committed a turnover in the offensive zone that led to Anthony Duclair's game-tying goal. But Anthony Cirelli went end to end in overtime to score the winner. The Lightning controlled a lot of that game, but two mistakes nearly burned them. They can't keep letting that happen, especially in games they control.


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