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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Devils' playoff chances, Red Wings' rebuild

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the March 28 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday throughout the 2017-18 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

If the New Jersey Devils make it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, how far do you think they could potentially go? -- @littlemann9

I wouldn't pick the Devils to win in the Eastern Conference First Round if they get in. They're going to play a team that is better, deeper and more experienced. It could be the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals or Pittsburgh Penguins depending on how this all plays out. The Devils could miss too. Let's not forget about that. 

I think the Devils match up best against the Lightning or Penguins. They're a combined 6-0-0 against them and play the Penguins at Prudential Center on Thursday. They're a combined 1-4-1 against the Bruins and Capitals, who they also play one more time. However, I wouldn't go as far to pick the Devils to win a series against any of those teams. The Lightning's play of late is concerning, but there is something to be said for them hitting coast mode in the past few weeks. They're good enough to flip the switch. The Devils can match the Penguins' speed. They can take the Penguins' game and shove it right back in their faces. However, we know how good the Penguins are in the playoffs, so picking against them is not a smart idea. 

The Devils aren't quite there yet, but they're coming. I don't think anybody is going to enjoy playing them in the playoffs if they get in. They won't go quietly.

Video: TBL@NJD: Hischier slams home rebound to open scoring

 

John Tavares to the New York Rangers a possibility? -- @ChaddyRangers99

Sure. Why not? Fans of the New York Islanders might choke on their breakfast reading this, and I do think it's a long shot, but Tavares to the Rangers makes sense on a lot of levels for the team and player. It's something the Rangers must explore if the Islanders can't get Tavares signed before June 25, which is when the five-day window for potential unrestricted free agents to talk to other teams begins. This is, frankly, a no-brainer for the Rangers. But let's also remember that it's a no-brainer for a lot of teams. 

The Rangers, though, are an intriguing option. For starters, they will have space under the NHL salary cap. They need a true No. 1 center who is also captain material. Mika Zibanejad is having a strong finish to the season, but think about how much better the Rangers would be if they had Tavares on the first line, Zibanejad on the second, and Kevin Hayes in a checking role on the third line. It could mean putting Lias Andersson on the fourth line and moving Filip Chytil to the wing. The rebuilding Rangers would quickly be the contending Rangers again.

Tavares wouldn't have to move if he didn't want to. Or, at the very least, he could move, but he'd still be in a familiar New York environment. He would remain in the Metropolitan Division too. 

By no means am I advocating for this or saying it will happen. I'm merely saying it's a possibility and one the Rangers should explore. So should about half the NHL though.

 

Will the writers vote Anze Kopitar for the Selke Trophy because they aren't going to vote him for the Hart Trophy but want to acknowledge his good season? -- @puckfollower

It's a good question. I don't vote for the major NHL awards because as an NHL employee I'm not a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. However, I know many PHWA members and I know without question they recognize Kopitar's season, how good it has been, and why the center is worthy of being in the discussion not only for the Selke Trophy, but for the Hart Trophy, especially if the Los Angeles Kings make the playoffs.

Kopitar is sixth in the NHL with 88 points (34 goals, 54 assists). The next Kings players on the list were forward Dustin Brown and defenseman Drew Doughty, each tied for 70th with 55 points. The 33-point difference between Kopitar and the next highest Kings scorer is exceeded only by Devils forwards Taylor Hall (85 points) and Nico Hischier (49 points) as the biggest point-differential among the top-two scorers on a team in the League this season. What that tells you is that Kopitar is driving the Kings offense. He has scored or assisted on 39.6 percent of the Kings' 222 goals this season. Only Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (46.4 percent, 102 of 220) and Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux (40.0 percent, 92 of 230) had a better percentage. In addition, Kopitar leads NHL forwards in total ice time (1,699:13) and is 11th in shorthanded ice time (171:40). 

Kopitar should be at the very least a top-five candidate for the Hart Trophy and the Selke Trophy. The better odds are on him winning the Selke.

Video: CGY@LAK: Kopitar wires wrist shot past Smith for PPG

 

How do you think Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan should handle his goalie situation in the offseason? Given Braden Holtby's shaky year, Philipp Grubauer being ready for a starting position, and Ilya Samsonov likely coming over next season, it seems like someone has to go. -- @JRempe55

It's a great question and one I was pondering with some of the people who cover the Capitals while they were at Madison Square Garden on Monday. I think a lot depends on what happens in the playoffs. If the Capitals are eliminated early, I think we'll see a lot of changes, including in net. If Holtby gets his job back, responds well and takes the Capitals on a long run, I think it would be hard to change directions next season. 

That said, it's the right move for the Capitals to make Grubauer the unquestioned No. 1 starting next season.

In this salary cap world, with two potential No. 1 goalies, the Capitals would get some savings if they trade Holtby and re-sign Grubauer, who can be a restricted free agent after the season. Holtby has two years remaining on his contract with a $6.1 million NHL salary cap charge, but his actual salary for the next two seasons is $5 million per. He's eminently tradable, especially to a team that needs a No. 1 goalie, like the Buffalo Sabres, Islanders and potentially the Arizona Coyotes depending on what happens with Antti Raanta. Grubauer hasn't done enough to warrant a Holtby-like salary, but he has proven he can play like a No. 1. Samsonov would have an entry-level contract. Washington would still have two quality goaltenders.

 

So, what is it going to cost the Winnipeg Jets to re-sign Patrik Laine? Eight million, $9 million, $10 million per year? -- @Mertz1213

I think you're looking in the $10 million range starting in the 2019-20 season, which is why it's important for the Jets to try to win big this season and next season, when Laine is earning $925,000 on his entry-level contract. The $10 million and up range is the new reality for these high draft picks who exceed expectations while playing on their entry-level contract. Laine was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and I don't think there is any question that he has exceeded expectations already. McDavid ($12.5 million) and Sabres center Jack Eichel ($10 million) are the comparables now for Laine and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, who will also be up for a new contract after next season.

Jets forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Tyler Myers can each be an unrestricted free agent after next season. The Jets might not be able to afford one or both because of Laine, forward Kyle Connor, defenseman Jacob Trouba and goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

Video: DAL@WPG: Laine goes five-hole on Lehtonen

 

What kind of moves does a team like the Detroit Red Wings need to make in order to become competitive in the next five years given their lack of top talent, with the exception of Dylan Larkin? -- @39alaska39

I'm glad you said in the next five years, because the Red Wings' rebuild is going to take some time. It might not take five years, but it's not going to be quick. 

Red Wings senior vice president Jim Devellano addressed this topic with NHL.com columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika last week at the NHL general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida.

The Red Wings must start by drafting and developing well. They have Larkin and Anthony Mantha as young building blocks up front. Andreas Athanasiou might still fit into that group too, but it's not as clear. Either way, they don't have enough and they're thin on defense. 

They should get a high first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and need to hit on it. They also need center Michael Rasmussen, the No. 9 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, to become a difference-maker, and left wing Evgeny Svechnikov, the No. 19 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, to be an impact player sooner rather than later. They picked Svechnikov before the Minnesota Wild took center Joel Eriksson Ek at No. 20, the Vancouver Canucks selected forward Brock Boeser at No. 23 and the Flyers chose forward Travis Konecny at No. 24. It would look even worse if Svechnikov is a draft bust because those three players are certainly not. Defenseman Dennis Cholowski, the No. 20 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, also needs to become an impact player.

While drafting and developing, the Red Wings might have to let some of their long-term contracts run out. CenterHenrik Zetterberg is signed for three more seasons. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has two more. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall has one year left. It'll be near impossible to trade any of them. They might be able to buy out one or two of them or bury one of those contracts in the American Hockey League.

The Red Wings must slowly get their salary cap situation under control and they can't miss on their draft picks. They haven't hit on a mid-to-late-round pick in a while. They need one or two of those. 

 

Would there be any benefit to the Vegas Golden Knights naming a captain heading into the playoffs? Who would you give the 'C' to? -- @briantodd34

None whatsoever. They've gone this far without one, so why mess with success? Vegas' leadership core is clear: forwards James Neal, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, David Perron and Reilly Smith, defensemen Deryk Engelland and Nate Schmidt, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. None of them needs a C on his sweater to be identified as a leader.

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