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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Non-country teams in World Cup, UFAs left

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Sept. 14 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run through the the World Cup of Hockey 2016 into NHL training camps and through the regular season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

Thoughts on the addition of Team North America and Team Europe to the World Cup and how it may or may not change the tournament? -- @dolladollabill8

First off, love your Twitter handle name, Bill. That's fantastic stuff right there.

I love the addition of both teams for this tournament. People need to remember as much as this is an international tournament, it is a tournament run by the NHL and NHL Players' Association. The idea is to have as many NHL players as possible in the tournament. With all due respect to Switzerland and Slovakia, which would be the next two countries in based on International Ice Hockey Federation rankings, neither has enough NHL players to field a team. There were 10 Slovakian players in the NHL last season, and of those, six played 50 or more games. There were 11 Swiss players in the League last season, and of those, four played 50 or more games. Meanwhile, every Team North America player outside of Auston Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, played in the League last season. Its goalie, Matt Murray, won the Stanley Cup. They are some of the youngest and brightest players in the game. They're electrifying to watch. How many would be in the tournament if they had to play for Team USA or Team Canada? Half? Less? The same goes for Team Europe. Of the 23 players on the roster, nine are from Slovakia or Switzerland, leaving 14 players who would not be in the tournament otherwise, including Anze Kopitar (Slovenia), Leon Draisaitl (Germany) and Mats Zuccarello (Norway). Adding Team North America and Team Europe means more of the best players in the world are competing in the tournament, making it arguably the truest form of best-on-best that we've seen. This is why Daniel Alfredsson told me last week that he thinks it could be the best tournament ever.

So, if you can't tell, I like the format. That doesn't mean the format will stay the same if the World Cup returns in 2020. Things change. Formats change. Locations change. But for now, I like this format and I'm like everyone else, incredibly intrigued by Team North America.

Is there a move coming from the New York Rangers with so many NHL forwards? -- @rangers3061

It's definitely possible before the regular season opens for the Rangers on Oct. 12, but for now I think they're content standing pat and seeing how things shake out in the World Cup and in training camp. These things have a way of working themselves out sometimes because of injuries or inconsistent play that requires a demotion. The Rangers have 17 NHL forwards counting injured forward Oscar Lindberg, who isn't expected to be ready to start the season. The assumption is rookie forwards Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich will be in the opening night lineup. But what if they struggle and need to go through an adjustment period in the American Hockey League? I'm not suggesting that will happen, in fact I'd be shocked if it does, but there is that possibility. Center Maxim Lapierre will go to camp on a professional tryout contract. Josh Jooris has a two-way contract. The Rangers don't have to do anything now unless it involves a bigger-picture transaction.

Which of the remaining unrestricted free agents do you think get NHL deals and where would they fit well? -- @kinglewimcmxc

The first name that comes to mind is defenseman Kris Russell. Many people thought he'd be a July 1 signing, but general managers got smart with him and are waiting. Russell can play in the NHL, but he's not a top-four defensemen, at least not in my opinion. He blocks a lot of shots, so he's gutsy and willing to sacrifice his body, which is admirable, but he struggles to help his team get the puck back and transition into offense. He'll get a job, though. I can see the New Jersey Devils as a potential fit only because I think they need another veteran defenseman.

Predicting fit for UFAs at this point is difficult because we don't know what injuries lie ahead. However, here is a list of five current UFAs who I think will definitely find work soon: Russell, Kyle Quincey, David Jones, Lauri Korpikoski and Tomas Fleischmann.

A good showing in the World Cup with Team Finland will help Korpikoski. Dennis Seidenberg, who is playing for Team Europe, also might benefit from a strong World Cup. Patrik Elias will play for the Devils if he's healthy enough to play.

Video: TOR@NJD: Elias nets Devils' last goal of the season

What's your prediction for Eric Staal's productivity this season? -- @CBabs1120

He needs to be at the very least a 50-point player this season, but if he plays a full season, 60 points should be the bar. I think Staal will fall somewhere in between that, and it will be enough to help the Wild get back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He'll have a firm role as one of the top two centers with Mikko Koivu and should get power-play time as well. Although I know he didn't produce in New York after getting traded to the Rangers from the Carolina Hurricanes, I saw a lot of his games and thought he was generating chances. If he had more time, I think the production would have come. Staal still can skate and is strong, and in Bruce Boudreau's system, I think he could get back to being a 60-point player, which he hasn't been since the 2013-14 season.

Do the Edmonton Oilers have a better chance at the No. 1 pick or the playoffs? -- @bbak36

Playoffs, finally.

I'm not yet ready to predict the Oilers will make the playoffs. I still think their defense and depth forwards aren't strong enough. But they'll be competitive this season, and I can see them being in the Nos. 8-14 range instead of higher in the draft next year. That, Edmonton fans, is major progress. If all goes well, I've got the Oilers tracking for a playoff berth in 2018, a dozen years after they last got in.

Could the Johnny Gaudreau situation get ugly in Calgary? I don't see Brian Burke going 8x8 on a second contract. -- @rayguarino

It has the potential to get ugly, but I think Calgary GM Brad Treliving and Burke, the team president, are smart enough to know the value of Gaudreau and will cut a deal before the situation becomes a problem. Right now, it's not. Gaudreau is playing in the World Cup for Team North America. He doesn't have a contract. The Flames certainly would prefer that he did, but they need him under contract and healthy when their season opens Oct. 12 against the Oilers. They still have time to get a contract done. They worked one out with Sean Monahan recently, and that's a good barometer for the Gaudreau contract. I think Gaudreau should and will get more than Monahan, who signed a seven-year contract worth $44.625 million, according to Sportsnet. That's $6.375 million per season. Gaudreau has been more productive and, frankly, he puts more fans in the seats than Monahan, making him worth more. I can see a seven-year, $49 million contract for him. That's $7 million per season. They have until after Gaudreau's time in the World Cup is over. The best thing would be to have him ready to move directly into training camp once he's finished in Toronto. That gives Calgary some more time before things could turn ugly. I don't think it will get to that point.

Your top six forwards, top four defensemen, starting and backup goalies for the Winnipeg Jets in 2016-17? -- @propertyjen

Up front, the Jets are righty heavy on the wing with Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and Drew Stafford. I'm moving Laine to the left side because of his versatility. Nikolai Ehlers also is more used to playing right wing, but to get him in the top six, he has to move to the left side. He is a lefty. Mark Scheifele and Bryan Little have the middle locked up.

Ehlers - Scheifele - Wheeler
Laine - Little - Stafford

On defense, I'd be looking for balance, which is why you see I have Ben Chiarot, a lefty, in the top four. Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba (provided the restricted free agent signs) and Tyler Myers are righties. If you want balance, you're looking at one of them playing on the third pair. For now, I'll say Trouba, but he should get more time on the power play and penalty kill, so it will even out for him. Toby Enstrom and Mark Stuart are the other lefties.

Chiarot - Byfuglien
Enstrom - Myers
Stuart - Trouba

The No. 1 goalie job should be Connor Hellebuyck's to lose. I'd go with Michael Hutchinson as the backup and try to trade Ondrej Pavelec. That could be tough because of his $3.9 million salary cap charge, so then I'd waive him and put him in the minors. The Jets should be able to handle that cap-wise even if Trouba signs. I wouldn't trade Hutchinson because he's a backup goalie with a $1.15 million cap charge for the next two seasons. He could give the Jets good value on the dollar.

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