Skip to main content
Over The Boards

Mailbag: Toughest NHL division, Canucks' playoff chances

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the July 17 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which runs every Wednesday. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

What division do you see being the toughest one in 2019-20 and why? -- @TJRinger1

The Metropolitan Division is loaded. There's an argument for why each of the eight teams can make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There's also an argument for why the only lock is the Washington Capitals, the one team in the division that I believe doesn't have a glaring flaw.

The positives, outside of Washington: The New York Islanders, who finished second in the division last season to the Capitals, have not made any drastic changes except at goalie from Robin Lehner to Semyon Varlamov. Forwards Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle re-signed. They should remain one of the top defensive teams in the NHL after allowing the fewest goals last season (191, 2.33 per game). … The Pittsburgh Penguins still have centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, defensemen Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin, goalie Matt Murray, their experience and what should be a rather sizeable urge to make up for getting swept in the Eastern Conference First Round by the Islanders. … The Carolina Hurricanes retained center Sebastian Aho after he signed a contract offer sheet with the Montreal Canadiens. They gained experience from their run to the Eastern Conference Final last season. … The Columbus Blue Jackets lost a lot of talent (forwards Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky), but they are strong at defenseman with Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, David Savard, Ryan Murray, Markus Nutivaara and potential Calder Trophy candidate Vladislav Gavrikov. … The Philadelphia Flyers improved at center with the addition of Kevin Hayes. They also gained experience at defenseman with the additions of Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen. New coach Alain Vigneault will bring stability, and goalie Carter Hart is expected to have his breakout season. … The New York Rangers added Panarin, defensemen Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox, and forward Kaapo Kakko, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. … The New Jersey Devils added center Jack Hughes, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, and defenseman P.K. Subban, who should bring instant credibility to their back end and power play. They'll be dangerous if left wing Taylor Hall, the Hart Trophy winner two seasons ago, is healthy after being limited to 37 games last season because of a knee injury.

The questions, outside of Washington: Can the Islanders be strong defensively again with Thomas Greiss and Varlamov as their goalies? … Do the Penguins have enough on defense and can they make up for the loss of Phil Kessel's offense after trading the veteran forward to the Arizona Coyotes for forward Alex Galchenyuk? … Did the Hurricanes overachieve last season? … Will either Joonas Korpisalo or rookie Elvis Merzlikins emerge as a No. 1 goalie for the Blue Jackets? … Are the Flyers improved enough defensively after finishing 29th in the NHL in goals-against last season (280, 3.41 per game)? … Is Henrik Lundqvist going to play at an all-star level all season for the Rangers? … Will Cory Schneider give the Devils legit No. 1 goaltending?

Video: Analyzing notable unsigned restricted free agents

 

What is your best guess about what the trade deadline market will be like this season? I know it is early for that question without knowing who is in/out, but wondering if you have any comments knowing who will be UFAs next year? -- @ZmanIsles

It's never too early to talk about potential trade bait. That is the stuff that moves the needle. The best way to answer your question is to look at the potential unrestricted free agents the 2020 offseason and the teams that could be on the bubble or are in rebuilding mode.

The list of pending UFAs that fit both categories includes Hall, forward Wayne Simmonds and defenseman Sami Vatanen from the Devils; Detroit Red Wings defensemen Mike Green and Trevor Daley; Braun from the Flyers; Florida Panthers forward Mike Hoffman; Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon; Chicago Blackhawks goalies Corey Crawford and Lehner; Arizona Coyotes center Carl Soderberg; Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk and forward Erik Haula; Rangers left wing Chris Kreider; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev and goalie Jacob Markstrom; Ottawa Senators defenseman Ron Hainsey and forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau; Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian; Los Angeles Kings forwards Tyler Toffoli and Trevor Lewis; and at least five players from the Buffalo Sabres: forwards Jimmy Vesey, Conor Sheary and Vladimir Sobotka, and defensemen Zach Bogosian and Marco Scandella.

Some of these players could have his future ironed out before the season begins. Will Hall re-sign with the Devils? Is Kreider going to re-sign with the Rangers or be traded? Is Toffoli going to start the season in Los Angeles? Is there room for Bogosian in Buffalo when their other right-handed defensemen include Rasmus Ristolainen, Brandon Montour and Colin Miller?

I don't expect it to be a center-heavy market, but contending teams targeting depth on the wing, at defenseman and in goal should be able to find some in the rental market next season.

 

Can Kyle Turris have a bounce-back season playing third-line center for the Nashville Predators "against lesser competition?" Seems that adage doesn't always work out as he'll be playing with "lesser" wingers and fewer minutes. -- @bwiz77

The question that really needs to be asked is if the Predators are comfortable having a third-line center making $6 million. If yes, Turris is a luxury and capable of being better than he was last season, when he had 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) in 55 games. Doubling his production is a reasonable expectation if he stays healthy. He'll likely be on the second power-play unit (the first unit should include forwards Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg, and defenseman Roman Josi). Turris should start more shifts in the defensive zone as a third-line center behind Johansen and Duchene, who should get the majority of the offensive-zone face-offs, but then it becomes about winning draws and transporting the puck. Turris is 50.0 percent in his NHL career on face-offs.

It's important for Turris to accept his new role and thrive in it. The Predators will be better and his trade value will increase if he does. Barring injury, Turris would likely have to be traded to become a top-six center again. If he struggles and his value is low, the Predators won't trade him for pennies on the dollar.

Video: LAK@NSH: Turris opens the scoring with PPG

 

How improved are the Canucks and are they a playoff team? -- @CanucksJays

They're better, especially at defenseman with the additions of Tyler Myers and Jordie Benn and the likelihood of having Quinn Hughes for the entire season. I think they'll have more bite offensively, particularly in front of the net, because they acquired forward J.T. Miller in a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning and signed forward Micheal Ferland. A knock on the Canucks last season was they didn't generate enough of a presence in front of the net.

I think the Canucks are a bubble team. My issue is they don't have a lot of high-end talent outside of Elias Pettersson, the Calder Trophy winner last season; and right wing Brock Boeser, a restricted free agent. Hughes could be a No. 1 defenseman, but not yet. Myers is more of a middle-pair defenseman. I think the same of Alexander Edler and Christopher Tanev. Benn is a solid No. 5 or No. 6. Is scoring going to be a problem as it was last season when the Canucks were tied for 25th in the NHL with 219 goals? Will they have to win a lot of low-scoring games? The answer to both questions might be yes, which is why they're a bubble team. It'll be interesting to see if they will attempt to be a buyer in the trade market if they're on the bubble in February. My guess is they will be because missing the playoffs for a fifth straight season typically results in some changes in upper management.

 

What the heck are the Blue Jackets going to do? Do they stand a chance at being competitive in the tightly contested Metropolitan Division? -- @mikeybox

They stand a chance if they get quality goaltending. That's the biggest question mark for the Blue Jackets, which is why I mentioned Korpisalo and Merzlikins in the above answer about the Metropolitan Division. They're going to continue to play a grinding type of game with what I think will be an infusion of skill from forwards Alexandre Texier and Emil Bemstrom, if he makes the team. They don't have Panarin or Duchene, meaning they don't have a proven gamebreaker, but they have players who can score. Forward Cam Atkinson scored 41 goals last season. Pierre-Luc Dubois scored 27 and he's just touching on his potential as a 21-year-old center. Josh Anderson, who scored 27 goals last season, can and should be one of the top power forwards in the NHL. There will be offense from the back end, from Jones and Werenski. They have secondary scoring. Forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner combined for 56 goals last season. But will Korpisalo and/or Merzlikins be capable replacements for Bobrovsky at goalie? If yes, the Blue Jackets should at least be in the mix for a playoff spot. If it's spotty, they won't be. It's rarely that simple, but in Columbus' case, at least in terms of projections in July, it might be.

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.