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Mailbag: Jack Adams Award, Selke Trophy favorites

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the April 3 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which runs every Wednesday. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

Who is your Jack Adams Award winner? -- @SJS883

We are in the process of submitting our votes for the NHL.com Trophy Tracker. We vote for the top five in order that we think they should finish. Here is my top five for the Jack Adams Award:

1. Barry Trotz, New York Islanders
2. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Craig Berube, St. Louis Blues
4. Bill Peters, Calgary Flames
5. Rick Tocchet, Arizona Coyotes

The Islanders were the worst defensive team in the League last season. They allowed 293 goals, the most any team allowed since the Philadelphia Flyers allowed 297 in 2006-07. The Islanders are the best defensive team in the NHL this season with 190 goals allowed through 80 games. With two good defensive performances in their final two games, the Islanders could finish this season having allowed 100 fewer goals than last season. Only five teams in NHL history have done that, none since the 1996-97 Boston Bruins, who allowed 300 goals in 1995-96 and 194 in 1996-97. The Islanders have clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and could have home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round. That is a result of the defensive philosophy that Trotz and Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello implemented this season, their first in New York. 

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Islanders clinch a playoff spot

 

Who do you see winning the Selke Trophy? Sebastian Aho? Ryan O'Reilly? -- @TJRinger1

We didn't do a Trophy Tracker for the Selke Trophy, but here is what I would submit:

1. Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis Blues
2. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes
3. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
5. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning

O'Reilly's impact on the Blues, at least in my opinion, is equal to the impact goalie Jordan Binnington has made on them. They would not be a playoff team without the sizeable contribution O'Reilly makes in all three zones. He has won 57.1 percent of his face-offs, fourth among players who have taken at least 1,000. O'Reilly is third with 1,828 face-offs taken and is almost a point-per-game player with 74 points (27 goals, 47 assists) in 79 games. He faces the toughest matchups and is plus-23. And that's only some of the stats that show what type of player he has been for St. Louis this season. In the rare year when Bergeron isn't running away with it, O'Reilly would get my vote for the Selke Trophy because of his overwhelming impact in all areas. 

 

What is your take on the Detroit Red Wings signing Jeff Blashill to a two-year contract extension? Is the explosion of youth in the past several games something we can count on to continue under him? -- @hansbrieden

I'm not surprised the Red Wings gave Blashill a two-year contract. Detroit has gone into rebuilding mode with him and a big part of his task as coach is to have the Red Wings' younger players develop under his tutelage. That is happening. Dylan Larkin (73 points; 32 goals, 41 assists), Andreas Athanasiou (53 points; 30 goals, 23 assists), Anthony Mantha (47 points; 24 goals, 23 assists) and Tyler Bertuzzi (47 points; 21 goals, 26 assists) are Detroit's top four scorers and their four best forwards. They're each 24 years old or younger, and they're all better now than they were a year ago, with each averaging more points per game and more ice time per game than he did last season.

Blashill has helped bring along 19-year-old forward Michael Rasmussen, who has 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 62 games. Filip Hronek, a 21-year-old defenseman, is coming along too, making strides with 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) in 44 games. The Red Wings have more coming, including forwards Filip Zadina and Joseph Veleno, the No. 6 and No. 30 picks in the 2018 NHL Draft, and defenseman Dennis Cholowski, who had 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 52 games this season before being sent to the American Hockey League in February. Taro Hirose, who was signed out of Michigan State University on March 12, looks like he could be a key player too. Hirose has six points (one goal, five assists) in eight games. The Red Wings should also have a high first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft since they're in the bottom five of the NHL standings. 

The two-year contract gives Blashill more time to invest in the development of the Red Wings' top young players and to build the team back into a contender to reach the playoffs. It's the right timeline for a rebuilding team that believes in its coach.

 

If the Adam Fox to the New York Rangers rumors are true, what type of return could the Carolina Hurricanes expect for a player who, while talented, they would possibly lose for nothing and whom teams can sign as a free agent next season? -- @Denny816

First some background:

Fox is a 21-year-old defenseman who finished his junior season at Harvard last week. The Jericho, N.Y. native has twice played for the United States in the IIHF World Junior Championships. He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the third round (No. 66) of the 2016 NHL Draft and was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on June 23 along with defenseman Dougie Hamilton and forward Micheal Ferland for defenseman Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm.

Fox has not signed with the Hurricanes. If he returns to Harvard for his senior season, he can become an unrestricted free agent in August 2020. Carolina owner Tom Dundon told the Raleigh News & Observer that the Hurricanes will try to trade Fox to avoid the risk of losing him for nothing next year. The question is when, to which team, and for what?

The Rangers are reportedly interested in Fox, a Hobey Baker Award candidate, given to the top men's NCAA hockey player, who could be ready to play in the NHL next season. But is Fox ready to sign or does he want to go back to Harvard for his senior season, potentially get his degree, and have his pick of teams by becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer? If that's what he wants, trading him will be difficult. If he's ready to sign, the Hurricanes can work with teams he would sign with.

I'm sure the Rangers are enticing to him since he is a New Yorker and Rangers coach David Quinn, formerly the coach at Boston University, likely knows him well. The potential return could be a third-round draft pick since Fox was a third-round pick three years ago. Maybe his age and experience pushes the Hurricanes to try to up the ante a bit to get a second-round pick, or another player who is on the cusp of being a full-time NHLer. The fact is, though, I can't recall a time when the unsigned player with college eligibility remaining was the featured component of a trade. There have been bigger, more complex trades that have included unsigned college players, including Fox last year. But the situation he's in now is unique. 

 

Who are the top six defensemen for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round pending everyone being healthy? -- @skiminer36

Brian Dumoulin -- Kris Letang
Jack Johnson -- Justin Schultz
Marcus Pettersson -- Erik Gudbranson

These pairs give the Penguins three lefty-righty combos, a true top pair that has experience in big games, a puck-moving second pair and a defensively savvy and sizeable third pair. You have your power-play quarterbacks, Letang and Schultz. Pettersson can play with Schultz on the second power-play unit. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan could err on the side of experience and the penalty kill and use Olli Maatta instead of Pettersson. If he did, it would be hard to object, but if the Penguins are fully healthy in a week, I'd go with the bottom two units that have been working for them through the balance of the last quarter of the season and the top pair that features their best two defensemen. The Penguins have been at their best defensively this season since acquiring Gudbranson in a trade from the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 25, which is also when Schultz was starting to get comfortable five games into his return from a broken leg. They have allowed 2.22 goals per game (40 in 18 games) since the trade, and that's without having Letang for 15 of those games. It's nearly a full goal-against per game drop from their first 62 games (193 goals-against; 3.11 per game). Maatta has played the past four games after missing 21 with an upper-body injury. Letang, though, has been out.

Video: PIT@CAR: Letang finishes feed from Rust

 

Where are the Minnesota Wild at right now and where do they go from here? Should they stick with their core and make some (minor) changes for next year or do you start to tear it down and build for the future? Something needs to change. -- @ene_adam

The Wild are caught in between, which is the worst place to be for an NHL team. They're not good enough to contend for the Stanley Cup and they have too many veterans on long-term, difficult-to-move contracts to go into a deep rebuild. But I think they can rebuild on the fly while remaining a playoff contender next season. That seems to be the direction general manager Paul Fenton is leaning with some of the moves he has made, including acquiring Ryan Donato from the Boston Bruins for Charlie Coyle, and Kevin Fiala in a trade from the Nashville Predators for Mikael Granlund. Donato and Fiala, both forwards, are each 22. Coyle and Granlund, also forwards, are each 27. Teams focused on a full rebuild would have likely acquired high draft picks for Coyle and Granlund. That Fenton got NHL players shows the Wild want to speed up the get-younger, get-faster process. The Wild also signed forward Nico Sturm out of Clarkson University on Monday. They didn't do that as a favor to him; they think the 23-year-old who led Clarkson with 45 points (14 goals, 31 points) this season can be a player.

Minnesota will have to stick with some pieces of its current core, including center Eric Staal, who signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract on Feb. 25. I don't expect left wing Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter will be going anywhere, not with six years left on their respective contracts. Wild captain Mikko Koivu will likely be back too. He has one year left on his contract. Minnesota is solid in goal with Devan Dubnyk signed for two more seasons and Alex Stalock signed for three after this one. But I do expect some changes and I wouldn't rule out anything from players to coaches to scouts to, well, everything. 

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