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Over The Boards

Future of Oilers, Stamkos among questions's Dan Rosen answers weekly mail

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Here is the April 6 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday during the 2015-16 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

Are the Edmonton Oilers really "damaged" and how would you un-damage them? -- @peediepeedie

They're damaged in their current form. That's not debatable at this point. I thought the Oilers would take a step in the right direction this season and, frankly, I figured they would at the very least make a push to be in the playoff discussion once Connor McDavid returned to the lineup. How very wrong I was. Their season speaks to a sense of entitlement that has infected that dressing room for too long. I think it goes back to Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle getting contracts that pay each $6 million per season. Outside of being promising young players, they have not done enough to make me feel they're worth that kind of money. Their talent is worth that kind of money, but as you hear all the time, you can't win on talent alone.

So, here's what I would do to un-damage the Oilers.

1) Trade Nugent-Hopkins.

Nugent-Hopkins is still young enough to warrant a strong return, hopefully a top-pair defenseman. I'd choose Nugent-Hopkins to trade over Hall and Eberle because the Oilers are set at center with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl as their future 1-2 punch. Keeping Hall and Eberle gives Edmonton talented top-six wings to go along with McDavid and Draisaitl.

Video: COL@EDM: Nugent-Hopkins brings Oilers closer

2) Trade Nail Yakupov.

I don't know what the market is for him, but it's frankly just time to move on. He's a skilled player with deficiencies in the defensive zone and the Oilers have to be a team that plays a 200-foot game at all times.

3) Find fast bottom-six forwards.

The Oilers need to be a speedy team all the way through. They're too slow when you get past their high-end forwards. They need an Andrew Cogliano-type player. If only they had a player like him. Oh, wait…

4) Sign a top-four defenseman

For argument's sake, let's say they can get Travis Hamonic in a trade for Nugent-Hopkins, or even Eberle (Edmonton needs to keep Hall). That would solve part of the problem they have with right-handed defenseman. They still need more. Balance is important. Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Andrej Sekera and Brandon Davidson are all lefties. The Oilers need some righties. Mark Fayne could be the righty on their third-pair. Potential right-handed defenseman that could be unrestricted free agents on July 1 include Jason Demers, Roman Polak, Luke Schenn, and Kevan Miller. It's not the greatest list, but any of them would help Edmonton.

What do the Buffalo Sabres need to do this offseason to make the playoffs next season? -- @MTH4214

I'm typically not in favor of rushing a rebuild, but there are enough significant forwards who could be unrestricted free agents on July 1 that should be enticing to Sabres general manager Tim Murray. For starters, if Steven Stamkos hits the market, Buffalo could be a very interesting landing spot. It's close enough to his home in Toronto. The Sabres are much further along in their rebuild than the Toronto Maple Leafs and have the cap space to sign him. Getting Stamkos would likely push either Ryan O'Reilly or Jack Eichel to the wing, but I assume it's a problem coach Dan Bylsma would love to have. There are other top-six wings they could pursue, such as Loui Eriksson, Milan Lucic and Mikkel Boedker. I do think Murray has the wherewithal to make another splash and the timing is right, but I'd reserve my expectations because they could still be a year away from being a legitimate playoff threat. We'll see.

If Stamkos hits free agency, does his current medical status put a scare in teams that could potentially sign him? -- @k_corpstein

I'm not sure scare is the right word. I would think that general managers and owners would be somewhat skeptical, which I guess is only nature. The expectation is for him to make a full recovery and, most importantly, no team will sign Stamkos without having their medical staff do a full workup on him. Any GM interested would have to get the all-clear from his medical staff before proceeding. The way this sounds now, it doesn't appear his career is in jeopardy.

Video: TBL@DAL: Stamkos nets a pair of goals

Should we be worried about how the Los Angeles Kings will do in the playoffs due to their recent performances? -- @_ewok

I think a measure of concern is warranted. The alarming trend of giving up leads and being generally poor in the third period is worrisome. Entering their game Tuesday, the Kings had been outscored 12-4 in the third period in eight games since clinching a playoff berth on March 19. The Kings' problems started before their 3-2 loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, when they blew a lead by allowing two goals in the final 4:38 of the second period. Part of me thinks the Kings relaxed after clinching a playoff berth because maybe they know how much energy they'll need in the postseason. Coach Darryl Sutter said he doesn't think the Kings' top-end guys have played well since they clinched. The cynic in me wonders if they would rather play the San Jose Sharks instead of the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round. I don't think that's a conscious decision a team makes, but you know for L.A. it's easier to stay in California than it would be to travel to Tennessee. That's all speculation, though. There is a reason to be concerned.

What do you think should, not expect to, happen when ownership of the New York Islanders changes hands in the offseason? -- @SBradley93

For starters, the new ownership team of Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky needs to get involved to improve the team's relationship with Barclays Center if the Islanders in Brooklyn is going to work. Perhaps they already are involved. I hope so.

I'd try to get the team more involved in the Brooklyn community. It's a tight-knit borough and the Islanders are tenants now. They need to be out in the community and be making it public. This is actually why I was surprised they refurbished their practice facility in Syosset, N.Y. My feeling is if they're going to be playing in Brooklyn, they need to move to Brooklyn. That ship has sailed, though.

As for the on-ice product, it'd be nice to see the new ownership team invest more money into players. The Islanders are not a team that spends to the cap, but a New York team should at least have a top-15 payroll. And, if the team flops in the first round, and by that I mean loses in four or five games, I don't think a coaching change is out of the question. I'm never in favor of a coach losing his job, but the Islanders have to take the next step as a team. Remember, John Tavares can be an unrestricted free agent after two more seasons.

Oh, and removing the darn car from ice level is also a necessity. It's just strange.

What do you think of Kris Letang for the Norris Trophy? Does he have a shot in the top two? -- @HW06

I'm a big fan of Letang and, in particular, the role he has played in the Pittsburgh Penguins turnaround this season under coach Mike Sullivan. I think he's been as much an MVP of the team as Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury. I don't have a Norris Trophy vote, but if I did, I'd probably have Letang third on my ballot behind Drew Doughty (first) and Erik Karlsson   (second). I think Brent Burns will be high on many ballots so I think it'll be hard for Letang to crack the top two. He should be in the top five at least.

Video: NSH@PIT: Letang shoots through traffic to net PPG

Center is something that needs to be addressed in the offseason for the Minnesota Wild. What deal do you see them making? -- @TravKnops

I chose to answer this question simply because it gave me yet another chance for a mea culpa. Now, while I obviously have no idea how the Wild are going to do in the playoffs, I freely admit I should never have picked them to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final before the season began because I overlooked how weak they are at the center position relative to the other contenders in the conference. So, yes, I completely agree with you that the Wild absolutely must address the center position during the offseason either through a trade or a free-agent signing. It's impossible to predict what they'll do, other than I will boldly say they'll do something to address the position. I do wonder, though, if the Oilers are going to trade Nugent-Hopkins, would they trade him to another team in the Western Conference? Nugent-Hopkins would be a good fit in Minnesota, and the Wild might have a defenseman to give back to the Oilers.

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