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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Ben Bishop's success in goal will depend on Stars defensemen

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the May 17 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday through the course of the 2016-17 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

How good do you think Ben Bishop will be for the Dallas Stars next season? -- @GoStars12

Bishop will be better than what the Stars had in goal, but they have to improve on defense to make him stand out the way he did during his five seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, when he was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2014 and 2016. Getting Bishop signed after acquiring him in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings was a good start for the Stars, even if you disagree with the length (six years) and amount ($29.5 million) of the contract. That is a lot for a 30-year-old goalie with a history of injuries, but that was going to be the market for Bishop, and Stars general manager Jim Nill clearly was willing to take the risk on a proven No. 1 over a goalie like Scott Darling, a backup turned No. 1 who was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes by the Chicago Blackhawks and then signed to a four-year, $16 million contract on May 5. I can't blame Nill for choosing Bishop, especially when his job may be on the line. 

With Ken Hitchcock as coach, I would expect the Stars to buckle down on defense because that's what Hitchcock teams do. However, Nill has to get Bishop help on defense either in free agency or through trades. I think Karl Alzner of the Washington Capitals would be a strong signing for the Stars if he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. He's a durable defenseman who plays a strong, shutdown game. He won't wow you or dominate in possession, but he would be of big assistance to Bishop. I also think Brendan Smith of the New York Rangers, who could be an unrestricted free agent July 1, is someone the Stars should look at. He's a tenacious defensemen who can play both ends. If the Stars can get another puck-mover that would be key too. All of it will help Bishop have a strong first season with the Stars.

Video: Ben Bishop discusses new deal with Stars

 

Would Oliver Ekman-Larsson be available for the right price? Are the Toronto Maple Leafs a fit? -- @lateinthegoldie

I hesitate to say no because every player is available for the right price. But that price for Ekman-Larsson, the Arizona Coyotes' No. 1 defenseman, is going to be incredibly high. He's the Coyotes' best player and it's not even close. Talk to forward Shane Doan, coach Dave Tippett and general manager John Chayka and they'll tell you Ekman-Larsson is one of the best defensemen in the NHL and would get a lot more attention if he played in a bigger market or for a team that has won more lately. So it would take a heck of a lot to pry him out of Arizona, especially considering he's signed for another two seasons at $5.5 million per season, according CapFriendly.com. The Coyotes are not looking to trade him, nor should they. I'm sure Chayka would listen if a team called him on Ekman-Larsson because he has to listen to anything and everything that comes his way. The Maple Leafs would be a terrific fit, but what would you think if Chayka wanted a forward like Mitchell Marner or William Nylander as part of the return package?

Video: ARI@TBL: Ekman-Larsson rifles one in off the post

 

Thoughts on the New York Rangers' offseason plans? Think they really shake it up? -- @Im_Joe_Nasti

I think a shake-up is coming. That's the feel I got from being around the Rangers after they were eliminated by the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Second Round. Among their needs is a right-shot puck-moving defenseman to play with captain Ryan McDonagh. I think the Rangers need two of them. Some names have popped up, including Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes. They'd have to acquire him in a trade, but he'd be perfect for the Rangers and McDonagh, who I believe was held back the past two seasons playing primarily with Dan Girardi. The Rangers, though, will have to give to get, and if it means trading one of their forwards --Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller or Chris Kreider -- to get a player like Faulk, it's a move I think they have to make. Girardi has three years left on his contract, with an average annual value of $5.5 million according to CapFriendly.com, and I think they will buy him out to free up salary-cap room to make other moves to bolster the roster. If they don't buy him out, Girardi will have to take on a lesser role. The same with defenseman Marc Staal. Defenseman Brady Skjei has to get more ice time in a top-four role. The Rangers also will lose a good player to the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft. I'd say the top three candidates are forwards Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg and goalie Antti Raanta. There are ways to sway Vegas' decision on whom to take, but either way the Rangers are going to lose someone of significance.

So, yes, there will be a shake-up. You could argue that it started Tuesday, at least at the American Hockey League level. The Rangers announced assistant general manager Chris Drury will take over as the GM of the Hartford Wolf Pack, their AHL affiliate, and Hartford coach Ken Gernander was fired after 10 seasons. Senior vice president and assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld, who was Hartford's GM, will return his focus to the Rangers. That's a start. There will be more.

Video: John Giannone discusses the future for the Rangers

 

Is Neal Pionk going to start for the Rangers next year? -- @yahoo302

Pionk, a defenseman who signed May 1 after his season ended at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, might start a preseason game. Beyond that I have no idea if he'll be on the NHL roster, and there's no way general manager Jeff Gorton and coach Alain Vigneault know either. Pionk, 21, had 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 42 games and helped UMD reach the 2017 NCAA championship game. He's also a right-handed shot, which is what the Rangers need, but they can't go into training camp banking on it being Pionk. There's little chance Gorton and Vigneault allow that to happen even though I'm sure they'd love him to be a factor to create the competition.

With Toronto looking at right-handed defensemen, any chance Brent Seabrook waives his no movement clause and Toronto would want him? Great experience and winning attitude. -- @ny1bullsfan

I'll counter this with a question.

Why would Seabrook waive the no-movement clause he negotiated into his contract with the Blackhawks, a contract that has seven years left, including five more with the no-movement clause, according to CapFriendly.com? He clearly wanted the stability the no-movement clause offers. I don't understand why in the world he would waive it.

I guess stranger things have happened, but I would put this into the category of very unlikely.

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