Let's say the Vancouver Canucks are a couple years away from contending for the Stanley Cup with the talents of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Quinn Hughes. What do they need to add in your eyes to push themselves further? -- @xBraedenn
They need help on defense, regardless of whether they plan to re-sign Alexander Edler and keep Christopher Tanev. Edler can become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Tanev has one year left on his contract. The Canucks could trade him; however, considering their lack of depth on defense I'm not sure that makes sense. Hughes has a chance to be special, but the Canucks need another top-four defenseman, if a not top-pair defenseman, to help them on the back end. They might need two, but let's start with one. Is that Olli Juolevi, their first-round pick (No. 5) in the 2016 NHL Draft? He might need another two years to be ready to handle a significant role after having season-ending knee surgery in December. Juolevi is expected to be ready for training camp. They need to add on the back end. Up front, another scoring winger would be ideal.
The good news is goalie Jacob Markstrom is having a solid year. Most improved player on the team is what I was told. That's high praise. Markstrom and Thatcher Demko should be the goalie combination through at least next season. Vancouver can live with that, especially with 19-year-old Michael DiPietro, their third-round pick (No. 64) in the 2017 NHL Draft, on the rise in the system. Vancouver also has solid center depth with Horvat, Pettersson, Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle. The Canucks also have some prospects they like, including forward Tyler Madden at Northeastern. He scored the overtime goal to defeat Boston University on Monday, sending Northeastern to the Beanpot final against Boston College.
Which players will likely receive offer sheets and which teams will be looking to offer sheet said players? -- @MerlinMurls
Not Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, who signed a five-year contract extension with an average annual value of $11.634 million Tuesday. Perhaps his teammate, forward Mitchell Marner, could be subject to one along with Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point, Winnipeg Jets forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, and Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen.
I'd look at the New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings as teams that could be in the offer-sheet market. The Rangers and Kings could do it to try to speed up their rebuilds. The Blue Jackets will likely lose forward Artemi Panarin either in a trade this month or as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, so they'll need to replace him. The Panthers appear primed to make changes, and the Devils have to worry about potentially not having forward Taylor Hall after next season, when his contract expires and he can become an unrestricted free agent.
That said, I'd still bet against it happening. The offer sheet has been a topic of late, especially with Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland telling The Athletic in a Q&A that ran Jan. 28 that if the offer sheet makes sense he'll look at it. However, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio with Gord Stellick and Rob Simpson on Tuesday and said he hasn't heard anything different from his fellow GMs about how they feel about offer sheets. They're typically not used because they're costly and rarely work. You have to pay a premium for a player in the salary cap era, and the more you pay on an average annual basis, if the offer sheet isn't matched, the more draft picks you have to surrender. Last offseason, this was the scale:
$1,339,575 or below -- None
Over $1,339,575 to $2,029,659 -- Third-round pick
Over $2,029,659 to $4,059,322 -- Second-round pick
Over $4,059,322 to $6,088,980 -- First-round and third-round picks
Over $6,088,980 to $8,118,641 -- First-round, second-round and third-round picks
Over $8,118,641 to $10,148,302 -- Two first-round picks and one second- and one third-round pick
Over $10,148,302 -- Four first-round picks
Thus, if Marner is still a restricted free agent and a team wants to sign him them to an offer sheet, it could cost them more than $10 million on the salary cap and potentially four first-round draft picks at that price if Toronto doesn't match. That team must be in possession of its own next four first-round picks in order to sign one such a player to the offer sheet. It's a hefty price to potentially pay for one player.
Video: NHL Tonight discusses Matthews' contract extension
Do you think any players with term will be moved by the NHL Trade Deadline? -- @rayguarino
We've already seen it happen in three trades since Jan. 28. The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired forwards Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann from the Panthers. Bjugstad has two years left on his contract after this season. McCann has one year left. The Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Jake Muzzin, who is signed through next season, from the Kings. And the Dallas Stars acquired defenseman Jamie Oleksiak from the Penguins. Oleksiak is signed for two more seasons after this one. Other players with term left on their contracts that have popped up in rumors and speculation are Tanev with the Canucks (one year remaining), Kings defenseman Alec Martinez (two years), Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (one year) and Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou (one year). I think it's unlikely we see any of them traded -- but it's not out of the question, especially since we've already seen four players with term get traded in the past 10 days.
Video: LAK@NYR: Kreider opens the scoring on the doorstep
Who are the New York Islanders trade targets? -- @SJS883
Thomas Hickey and Andrew Ladd. Yes, they're already Islanders. That's the point. Hickey and Ladd are getting healthy, practicing again and could return soon. Hickey, a defenseman, has missed 19 straight games with an upper-body injury and Ladd, a left wing, has missed 33 straight with a lower-body injury. Getting them back is equivalent to adding two veteran depth players before the deadline without having to give up anything. That's huge for the Islanders, who seem to have terrific chemistry that I would imagine general manager Lou Lamoriello isn't inclined to mess with.
Are the Penguins done making moves ahead of the trade deadline? Are they a contender with the roster they have now? -- @Isaac65301498
Never rule out Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford when it comes to the NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET on Feb. 25). He's arguably the most active GM in the NHL, so I wouldn't say they're definitely done making moves ahead of the deadline. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't do anything else. Rutherford has to see his team fully healthy before he decides if he needs to make another move. Where does defenseman Justin Schultz fit when he returns from a broken left leg, and how does his return impact defense the pairings? Does he replace defenseman Kris Letang on the struggling first power-play unit? Will Bjugstad be the third-line center when Evgeni Malkin returns to the lineup, or will it be McCann instead, meaning Bjugstad plays wing? The Penguins should have enough in-house options to answer these questions without having to go back into the market to acquire more players. I think they have enough to be a Stanley Cup contender.
How would you attribute the St. Louis Blues' stunning turnaround over the last 25 games or so? -- @Allen_Schneider
It's more like the past 12 games, since Jan. 7, when rookie goalie Jordan Binnington made his first NHL start. He has been a major difference for the Blues, going 7-1-1 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in nine starts. The Blues were stuck in neutral with Jake Allen in net, but they're flying with Binnington. Sometimes a change, a spark, a young player doing something unexpected and special is all it takes. St. Louis' shots-against and goals-against per game are way down since Binnington took over in net nearly a month ago. They were allowing 30.0 shots on goal and 3.3 goals per game in 39 games before Binnington's first start. They are allowing 24.2 shots per game and 2.00 goals per game in 12 games since. Defense and goaltending, what a difference they can make.
The Blues are turning their defense into more offense as well. They are averaging 3.0 goals per game and 32.8 shots on goal per game since Jan. 7 after previously scoring 2.8 per game on 30.7 shots per game. It helps that forward Vladimir Tarasenko has started to score. He has six goals in nine games since Jan. 12 after scoring six in his previous 30 games. St. Louis needs him to score.
Video: STL@FLA: Binnington slides across to deny Ekblad