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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Potential Pacioretty suitors, Blackhawks trade possibilities

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the July 18 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run on Wednesdays periodically throughout the offseason. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

Could Max Pacioretty be dealt this offseason? If so, what teams would have a good chance at him? -- @WillOrchel

Yes, he could be traded before the season and I think he will be. Pacioretty, a five-time 30-goal scorer who turns 30 on Nov. 20, has one year remaining on his contract. If he and the Montreal Canadiens do not negotiate an extension, that's basically the equivalent of telling him he will be traded at some point.

Any team that acquires Pacioretty should want him to sign an extension. There's obviously a chance he could sign an extension during the season, but without that guarantee his value in a trade this offseason goes down. The Canadiens can ask for more if they know Pacioretty is going to a team that will have him for the long term, and teams will likely lower their offer to the Canadiens if they don't have the guarantee that Pacioretty will be with them for the long term. The rub is Pacioretty is under no obligation to sign a contract extension with any team. He can choose to play out his contract and become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2019. He'd be risking his future earnings by betting on himself, but that's his power move to control the situation if he so chooses. He already reportedly used it once. TSN reported a trade that would have sent Pacioretty to the Los Angeles Kings last month fell through because he wouldn't sign an extension with the Kings. There have been reports of the Florida Panthers' interest in Pacioretty going back to February.

Video: The implications of a potential Max Pacioretty trade

 

Do you see the Chicago Blackhawks making any sort of trade post Marian Hossa deal to strengthen their roster for the upcoming season? Who would be a fit for a trade partner? -- @k_corpstein

I'm certain that Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman will eventually use the NHL salary cap space he freed up by moving Hossa's contract in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes last week. It's just a matter of when. Bowman, speaking to the media Tuesday, said if a trade happens, it'd likely be closer to the start of the season, when teams have a better idea of what they have and what they need. He didn't rule out saving the cap space to use for an in-season trade, when the Blackhawks will have a better idea of what they need. Whenever he does something, I think he'll target defensemen. The Blackhawks are deep enough on the back end. As it stands, one of Brent Seabrook, Connor Murphy or Jan Rutta would play top pair on the right side of Duncan Keith. That depth looks better if Seabrook is on the second pair, and Murphy or Rutta, or both, are on the third pair.

I wonder if the Blackhawks have interest in Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk. The Hurricanes are clearly willing to deal (they traded defenseman Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm to the Calgary Flames) and Faulk, a righty, would be an ideal fit to play with Keith. But Faulk is not going to come cheap, so who are the Blackhawks willing to give up? Brandon Saad? Then who fills Saad's role in the top-six forward group? I wonder if Pacioretty could be a fit here and that's how the Blackhawks use the cap space. I also wonder because of Chicago's win-now mode if they would take Pacioretty without an extension in place. That's a risk, especially if it involves moving a young player in the trade. Another possibility to consider is the Hurricanes trading Faulk and forward Jeff Skinner to the Blackhawks. Skinner is in the same situation as Pacioretty with one year left on his contract.

 

Do you think Rick Nash is going to retire or come back and play at some point this season? Will his reason matter solely on his health or some other factor? -- @BrandoWriter

It's too soon to tell. His agent, Joe Resnick, said last month that Nash is undecided about playing this season. That hasn't changed as far as I know. Health is one factor. Nash has a history with concussions, most recently the one he sustained late last season after the Boston Bruins acquired him in a trade with the New York Rangers. It cost Nash the final 12 games of the regular season before he returned to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The other factor is Nash's growing family. He and his wife, Jessica, have two young children and a third on the way. They live in Columbus in the offseason. They were loving life as New Yorkers until the Rangers traded him to the Bruins on Feb. 25. It's a family decision for Nash, who routinely talked about the impact a trade would have on his family last season before it happened.

My guess is Nash sits out the first part of the season, gets the itch to play and returns much in the way Mats Sundin did with the Vancouver Canucks three months into the 2008-09 season. Sundin was an unrestricted free agent who sat out the beginning of the season contemplating retirement. He signed a one-year contract with the Canucks on Dec. 18, 2008 and made his debut Jan. 7, 2009. Sundin retired after that season. He was 38 and played in 1,348 NHL games. Nash is 34 and has played in 1,060 games.

Video: BOS@TBL, Gm1: Nash rings in rocket for second goal

 

James Neal helped the Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup Final and was a key player for both teams. Can he do the same for the Calgary Flames? -- @Final20Hockey

It'd be a stretch today to say Calgary will reach the Stanley Cup Final this season, but it would have been a stretch to say that about Vegas at this time last year, so who really knows. What we know is that Neal should be ticketed to score at least 20 goals and 40 points, which he did for Nashville two seasons ago (23 goals, 18 assists) and Vegas last season (25 goals, 19 assists). However, more should be expected from Neal with his $5.75 million salary cap charge and the possibility that he plays right wing on Calgary's top line with center Sean Monahan and left wing Johnny Gaudreau. Put Neal with those two and he should be a 30-goal, 60-point player. If he puts up those numbers, he will help the Flames compete for a Stanley Cup Playoff berth in the Pacific Division. They missed the playoffs by 11 points last season largely because they struggled to score. They were bottom five in goals per game (2.63) and power play (16 percent). Neal should help them pull each of those numbers up.

Video: James Neal on signing a five-year deal with Calgary

 

Thoughts on the New Jersey Devils' lack of moves? Do you see a trade coming up or is New Jersey going to ride the youth train? -- @zissers14

The Devils are following a plan. Getting into the playoffs last season was proof it's working, not a reason to deviate from it. Expectations should be higher this season, especially when you look at the depth chart. There aren't many openings.

The Devils have their four centers: Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Travis Zajac and Brian Boyle. That's a strong four, especially if you believe, as I do, that Hischier is going to continue to develop into a player who will eventually be a perennial Selke Trophy candidate and Zacha can grow into a more reliable scorer in his third full season. On left wing, they have Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, a hopefully healthy Marcus Johansson, the energetic and reliable Blake Coleman, and the potential for Miles Wood to be on the third or fourth line. On right wing, they have Kyle Palmieri, Jesper Bratt, Stefan Noesen and the potential for Michael McLeod, their first-round pick (No. 12) from the 2016 NHL Draft. They could use some help at defenseman, especially with the loss of John Moore in free agency to the Boston Bruins. Some assistance on the left side could help reduce 35-year-old captain Andy Greene's minutes. Greene was one of three 35 or older defensemen who played at least 21 minutes per game last season. Zdeno Chara, 41, and Ron Hainsey, 37, were the others. The Devils might be able to find help on defense from within (Mirco Mueller and Steven Santini) or they could wait until closer to training camp to see who might be available on the trade market. Dan Hamhuis is available; the 35-year-old left-handed defenseman is an unrestricted free agent.

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