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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Oilers' plan without McDavid; Zucker trade to Penguins

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Feb. 12 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

Who should the Edmonton Oilers target? Would Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings be a perfect fit? How would this trade deadline affect general manager Ken Holland's offseason plans with the Darnell Nurse contract already done and most likely Ethan Bear coming soon? -- @NHL_RumorUpdate

The Oilers already needed to target secondary scoring in advance of the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline (Feb. 24), but their urgency to do so may have shot up Tuesday, when Holland revealed center Connor McDavid would be out 2-3 weeks with a quad injury. 

Everything about the Oilers changes with McDavid out of the lineup, but getting an infusion of offense before he returns could help stabilize them. McDavid could miss anywhere from 6-12 games based on Holland's timeline. It's not a brutal blow, but it is a massive amount of points on the line for a team that needs all it can get to stay in the hunt for a Stanley Cup Playoff berth in the Western Conference; they are one point behind the Vancouver Canucks for first in the Pacific Division. 

So what will the Oilers do? You ask about Toffoli. He's not the best option for them. The Oilers need a productive left wing more than they need a right wing. On the right side, they have Zack Kassian to play with McDavid when he's back, and Kailer Yamamoto hasn't looked out of place with Leon Draisaitl. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is sticking on the left wing for now, but that doesn't change Edmonton's need for another top-six left wing both before and after its captain returns.

The best option for the Oilers is quite clearly New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider, but we don't know of his availability yet. More on that later in this mailbag. James Neal, when he gets healthy after his foot injury, could help on the left wing in a top six role. But, assuming McDavid returns healthy, Neal's ability to keep up with No. 97 would be a concern for me. That's also why I don't think Montreal Canadiens forward Ilya Kovalchuk would be the right fit for the Oilers either. Toffoli has a chance to be a difference-making addition for a team, but he's not what Edmonton needs.

Video: Discussing McDavid's injury status, impact on Oilers

 

What does the Jason Zucker trade mean for both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild? -- @TJRinger1

For the Penguins, acquiring Zucker is a no-brainer. He's a 28-year-old left wing signed for three more seasons with an NHL salary cap charge of $5.5 million. He should be the perfect fit and, for at least the rest of this season, the replacement for Jake Guentzel (shoulder surgery) on Sidney Crosby's line. 

Zucker skates well and plays low in the zone. He should fit in with the style Crosby wants his wings to play. It was worth the price for the Penguins too. They gave up struggling forward Alex Galchenyuk, a pending unrestricted free agent who was not a fit in Pittsburgh, defenseman prospect Calen Addison and a first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft or 2021 NHL Draft to get him. Galchenyuk is a throw-in to make the money work in the trade. The Penguins were hoping for more out of him when they acquired him in the trade that sent forward Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes on June 29, but it didn't pan out. Addison has a chance to be special, but we don't know if he will and neither do the Penguins. If he pans out for the Wild, it wouldn't matter much to the Penguins if they win the Stanley Cup with Zucker in the lineup. The first-round pick is the cost of doing business to get a top player in his prime with years left on his contract. 

For the Wild, this trade signifies exactly what general manager Bill Guerin thinks of them. They were four points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference when the trade was made Monday. But Guerin had given them time to get it going, to climb, and it didn't happen, so now it's on to the original plan of the front office, which is to start a rebuilding process. This trade was about the prospect and the first-round pick for the Wild. They need to start accruing these types of assets with an eye toward the future. The good news is they have four defensemen -- Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin -- they can build around for the next several seasons.

Video: Breaking down the Zucker trade

 

What do you expect from the New Jersey Devils at the trade deadline? -- @EzBM3165

I expect some or all their veteran pending unrestricted free agents to be moved. At the top of the list are forward Wayne Simmonds and defensemen Sami Vatanen and Andy Greene. Greene is the captain and wants to stay, but if the Devils can get anything for him it makes sense to do it. He's 37, and they have to look to the future and get younger at the position. 

The next level the Devils are contemplating consists of players with one year remaining on each of their contracts. Are there trades out there now that make trading forwards Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri and Blake Coleman worth it? These are harder to make because of the term remaining on the contracts, but the Devils have to be thinking two years out. What will Palmieri want in his next contract, when he's 30 years old? Same question for Coleman, who will be 29 when he's up for a new contract. Zajac will be 36 when his contract expires. The Devils don't have to move any of these players now, but they're having internal conversations about all of them. They won't trade these players for pennies on the dollar, but if a fair trade can be made, they're going to entertain it. They need to know who they can position next to centers Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes for the next five years, if not longer.

 

The Florida Panthers seem like they can score goals but have huge issues keeping them out of their own net, and Sergei Bobrovsky has clearly been improving. Is a top-four defenseman on their radar, and what pieces would likely be shipped in return? Are they still playoff-bound? -- @themoose0221

The Panthers are seeking a top-four defenseman to play with Aaron Ekblad.

There are options on the trade market. The best available is Alec Martinez, a left-handed veteran who's won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings. Martinez, still with the Kings, would be the ideal partner for Ekblad, a righty, because he can play a strong stay-at-home game but he's also capable of joining the rush. Martinez can also play the right side, making him a versatile option, and is signed for next season too. But he's a wanted commodity, so the Panthers have competition to get him if he's the player they target.

The Kings are in the market for draft picks and prospects. The Panthers have plenty, including eight selections in the 2020 NHL Draft, five in the first four rounds. 

If the Panthers, who trail the Toronto Maple Leafs by two points for third in the Atlantic Division, upgrade their defense and start to be more consistent on that end, then I think they can reach the playoffs. But I need to see that happen before I can feel confident in any prediction.

 

What is the likelihood that the Rangers keep Kreider and sign him before the trade deadline? He's a huge presence in the locker room, having one of the best seasons of his career, and any of the things they get for him in a trade will probably never replace his game. -- @1994_nyr

I agree with all of your points about Kreider. I think the Rangers should keep him and must find a way to sign him to a contract. Kreider is 28 and having the best season of his NHL career (40 points; 18 goals, 22 assists in 54 games). His impact carries through so many areas of the Rangers: a top-six forward, a goal-scorer, a speed demon, a net-front presence, a leader, and a role model for the young forwards like Kaapo Kakko, Brett Howden, Filip Chytil and Pavel Buchnevich. The Rangers can't keep trading veterans with hopes of seeing meaningful progress. Kreider should be the one they re-sign and use as a key piece for the next five seasons, when they should turn into playoff contenders again.

But it's hard to determine the odds of Kreider staying with New York beyond Feb. 24. My guess is it's about term on his next contract. Kreider likely knows he will be able to get a seven-year contract if he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Rangers might be trying to sign him to a five-year contract or at most a six-year contract. I doubt Kreider will be with the Rangers after the deadline if he hasn't yet signed or agreed to a contract. This seems like it could come down to the wire.

Video: BUF@NYR: Kreider taps in late power-play goal

 

Assuming that the Nashville Predators make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, do you see the potential for Roman Josi to win the Hart Trophy while missing on the Norris Trophy? Based on points I'd say John Carlson looks like a lock. -- @MeierGilles

I could see the potential for it, or at least the basis for the argument to be made in Josi's favor to be voted the Hart Trophy winner as NHL MVP even if he isn't voted the Norris Trophy winner as the best defenseman. If the Predators, who are five points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference, make the postseason, a lot of it will be on Josi's back. He plays 26:02 per game in all situations. He leads them with 55 points (14 goals, 41 assists), 17 more than anyone else. He's their best defenseman, their captain and most important player. He's going to have to be great down the stretch for Nashville to have a chance, and even then, it might not be enough with the way the forwards are playing. Filip Forsberg has scored two goals in his past 10 games. Ryan Johansen has scored two goals in his past 15. Matt Duchene has scored one goal in his past 12. So yes, if he leads the Predators to the playoffs, Josi should be a Hart candidate even if he's not the favorite now for the Norris.

But you could also make the case that Carlson's value to the Washington Capitals is equal to Josi's value to the Predators. It's all relative, really. The Capitals have forward Alex Ovechkin lighting it up and tremendous depth at center with Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller, but Carlson (67 points; 15 goals, 52 assists) has been, from start to finish, their most impactful player in all zones and all situations. He starts the offense and a lot of times helps to finish it. He prevents goals. So if you're going to make the case for Josi to win the Hart Trophy, you should make it for Carlson too.

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