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Mailbag: Lightning playoff aftermath, Stone's impact on Golden Knights

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the April 17 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which runs every Wednesday. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

What changes does Julien BriseBois make to the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason? Seems like there needs to be some kind of switch up somewhere after this showing. -- @BWipperf

The last thing BriseBois, the Lightning general manager, can do is panic and start trying to make wholesale changes. The Lightning are still a good team. Getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round doesn't change that. What it does do is give them a reason to do a lot of evaluating this offseason about how they play and how they handle the regular season to better prepare themselves for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's hindsight now, but the Lightning allowed 43 goals in 14 games after clinching a playoff berth March 8. They went 11-3-0, so everybody was talking about how they kept their foot on the gas pedal and didn't take those games that really meant nothing for granted. Nobody was talking about the fact that they allowed 3.07 goals per game in that stretch. That was a problem and it needed to be addressed. Instead of winning easy, the Lightning needed to work on the finer details of their game at that time, make a move in the direction of playing a playoff style. It's understandably easier said than done because the mindset whenever you clinch a playoff berth, especially that early, is to relax a little. They should have realized whoever they were going to face in the playoffs was going to come in piping hot and intense. That is what happened, after all.

As for the roster, I would expect the core to return and for center Brayden Point to sign a big contract to remain in Tampa Bay. Ryan Callahan, who will be entering the final season of a six-year contract, could be a buyout candidate. Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and J.T. Miller could be trade candidates. Not all of them, maybe just one to shake things up. The defense will likely look different. I don't expect Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi, Braydon Coburn and Jan Rutta to all return. Those four are pending unrestricted free agents. Maybe one or two of them come back. Maybe none. The Lightning might be better off making changes at the position to change the makeup there around Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev.

 

Of all the trades that happened before the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline, it's hard not to think that the biggest one has been Mark Stone for the Vegas Golden Knights. Is he the difference-maker for them right now? -- @GoldenSaucerGuy

Stone might be Vegas' biggest difference maker, other than goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, because of how he impacts a game in all three zones. This is not a new thought for me either, so Stone's hat trick and brilliant five-point, four-takeaway performance in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round against the San Jose Sharks didn't sway me. If anything, it emboldened my feeling on Stone as the Golden Knights' biggest difference maker this side of Fleury. He's a terrific defensive forward, a right wing who is a potential Selke Trophy candidate. 

The last wing to win the Selke Trophy was Jere Lehtinen (Dallas Stars) in 2003. It's traditionally an award given to the best defensive center. Stone led the NHL in takeaways this season with 122, 22 more than Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov. His third goal in Game 3 was directly off a takeaway in the neutral zone. Stone is dangerous in transition, fast and elusive and creative off the rush. Look at his first goal in Game 3, it's directly off a transition play through the neutral zone. He's a massive presence in the offensive zone, dogged, willing to get to the net, crash and score that way. Look at his second goal in Game 3, a transition play and Stone dishes and goes right to the net to score. Stone completes the second line with Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny. His presence helps make the top line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith better because it loosens up some of the matchups. Having a player who can score as well as Alex Tuch on the third line is a luxury Vegas has now because of Stone. He was the biggest of all the trade deadline additions, which is why Vegas quickly signed him to an eight-year, $76 million contract.

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm3: Stone goes around Jones for hat trick

 

If the Colorado Avalanche make it past the Calgary Flames, how far do you see them going in a decidedly weak Western Conference field? -- @SoCalAvsFan

I am impressed with the Avalanche so far, especially in how they limited the Flames to two goals in each of the past two games. However, I don't think they'd win the next round if they play the Golden Knights. I'd give them a better shot against the Sharks, but I'm not sure I'd pick them to win that series either. But let's focus on the Golden Knights since they have a 3-1 lead against the Sharks in the best-of-7 series. They have more formidable goaltending and depth than the Avalanche. Vegas' top two forward lines (Karlsson with Marchessault and Smith, Stastny with Pacioretty and Stone) are much as scoring lines as they are shutdown lines. That's a matchup problem waiting to happen for the Avalanche and I don't think they would have an answer for it. Goaltending and matchup advantages are why I picked the Golden Knights to get to the Western Conference Final. They're better off going through the Avalanche than the Flames to get there.

 

Does the New Jersey Devils winning the first overall pick and, most likely, selecting Jack Hughes make it more likely that Taylor Hall re-signs with the Devils? -- @KelliX84

It certainly helps, which to me means the answer to your question is yes, it does make it more likely that Hall will sign a long-term extension with the Devils. That's not a lock, but with the addition of either Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, the likely top two picks in the 2019 NHL Draft, plus the fact that Nico Hischier is a rising star and the Devils appear to have stability in their front office and coaching staff, they are better situated to convince Hall to commit to them long term instead of waiting to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2020. Hall also likes it in New Jersey. He likes the way the organization is run and the character inside the dressing room. He wants to see a talent upgrade this offseason. Getting Hughes or Kakko is a big step in that direction. Then there is the potential for trades and maybe a splash in free agency because players want to play with Hall, Hischier and either Hughes or Kakko. If the talent upgrade is enough, I'd bet on Hall re-signing with the Devils.

 

Alain Vigneault is a great coach but doesn't seem like a fit in Philadelphia. They have such a young team. How does Chuck Fletcher transform his team to make them more of a fit for Vigneault? -- @BartlettBrando

I think Vigneault is a good fit with the Flyers. It's easy to have a recency bias and look at Vigneault's last season (2017-18) with the New York Rangers because that did not go well, and it ended with New York going into a rebuild and the coach getting fired about an hour after the season ended with a loss in Philadelphia, ironically. Vigneault, though, has twice now, with the Vancouver Canucks and Rangers, gotten his teams to show improvement in his first season. The Canucks improved by seven wins (49-42) and 13 points (105-92) from 2005-06, their last season under Marc Crawford, to 2006-07, their first under Vigneault. They reached the Stanley Cup Final four years later. The Rangers reached the second round of the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, their last under John Tortorella. Vigneault took over the next season and guided them to the Stanley Cup Final. He has three 50-win seasons and eight 100-point seasons on his resume. He's a proven winner.

The narrative that Vigneault can't develop younger players doesn't make much sense when you look at his track record. Ryan Kesler was 22 years old when Vigneault arrived in Vancouver. He was a Selke Trophy winner four years later. Miller, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh were all 24 or younger when Vigneault arrived in New York. They were all much better players by the time he left. I think Vigneault will be good for the development of some of the Flyers' young players, including forwards Travis Konecny, 21, Nolan Patrick, 20, and defensemen Robert Hagg, 23, Samuel Morin, 23, and Travis Sanheim, 22.

The difference with taking over the Flyers is Vigneault doesn't have an experienced, veteran, proven winner in net like he did with Roberto Luongo in Vancouver and Henrik Lundqvist in New York. However, Carter Hart, 20, has the pedigree to become a proven winner. Vigneault will have a chance to grow with him and a young team. Vigneault will need the leadership group to step up and aid him because one thing he likes to do is let the players police themselves in the dressing room. He also needs the Flyers to add maybe another veteran defenseman and veteran forward to help bolster the development of the young players. Overall, though, I like the fit and I think the Flyers will be better with Vigneault.

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