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Mailbag: Skinner trade right move for Hurricanes

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Aug. 8 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run on Wednesdays periodically throughout the offseason. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

Why did the Carolina Hurricanes make that Jeff Skinner deal now? Wouldn't they get way more at the trade deadline? -- @Lemieux67

There's no guarantee that they could get more before the NHL Trade Deadline than what they got from the Buffalo Sabres: forward prospect Cliff Pu, a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and third- and sixth-round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft. What if Carolina kept Skinner with the intention of trading him and he didn't play well? What if he got hurt? What if both happened? Anything like that would have negatively impacted his value, if not deteriorated it completely. Or what about the other side, if the Hurricanes kept him and he played so well that he helped them get into position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009? How could they justify trading him to their fan base if that were to happen? Imagine the uproar.

There were too many what-if scenarios for the Hurricanes to consider, which is why trading Skinner before the season was the right move, especially since they clearly had no interest in keeping him. General manager Don Waddell said there were no talks of a new contract for Skinner, who is entering the final year of his current contract.

Video: Jeff Skinner discusses his trade to the Sabres

 

Do you have any concerns that the new-look St. Louis Blues might face speed of play matchup challenges? -- @BHFanjb

I don't have any concerns about speed because I expect the Blues to have the puck a lot and that will enable them to control the pace of the game. The additions of centers Ryan O'Reilly and Tyler Bozak means the Blues should win a lot of face-offs. O'Reilly leads the NHL in face-off wins (3,337) and is second in winning percentage (58.1, minimum 1,000 face-offs taken) since 2015-16, including an NHL high 1,274 wins and 60.0 winning percentage last season, including 62.5 percent (514 of 822) in the defensive zone. Bozak is 53.6 percent on face-offs in his NHL career, and he led the Toronto Maple Leafs in face-offs taken and won in seven of the past eight seasons. The Blues also have a mobile defense group led by Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Jay Bouwmeester and Vince Dunn. Once they win the face-off, they should be able to transport the puck up the ice.

I don't think the Blues will be in contention for the title as the fastest skating team in the NHL, but they're not slow and they should be able to keep up, especially because they should have the puck a lot and they should be able to move it well. And that's the key to speed in the NHL today, quick puck movement. The teams that win all skate well, and all move the puck quickly and with purpose. It's about having a plan, being on the same page and going to the areas where you know the puck is going to go. That comes down to coaching and chemistry. The Blues' chemistry may take some time to develop with so many new faces in key positions, but with their likely ability to possess the puck, their mobile back end, and their newfound depth down the middle with Bozak and O'Reilly joining Brayden Schenn and possibly rookie Robert Thomas at center, they should be able to move the puck quickly. That will make them a faster team.

 

How concerning is the Florida Panthers' goaltending situation? -- @djgoldman35

I don't consider the Panthers' goaltending situation, with Roberto Luongo and James Reimer as their top two, to be concerning. I think of the Hurricanes, with Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek, as having a concerning goaltending situation. I feel the same way about the New York Islanders with Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, the Sabres with Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark, the Chicago Blackhawks if Corey Crawford isn't healthy, and the Philadelphia Flyers with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth together again. Long term, the Panthers' goaltending situation doesn't look great because Luongo is 39 and Reimer never has proven capable of being a long-term No. 1. Florida's top goalie prospect, Sam Montembeault, had an average first professional season with an .896 save percentage and 3.25 goals-against average in 41 games with Springfield of the American Hockey League. Montembeault, though, is 21 years old with a lot of room to grow. He is considered the goalie of the future for the Panthers, but you're asking me about their goaltending situation now and I don't find it all that alarming.

I believe the Panthers' strength is their ability to score, but Luongo and Reimer should be good enough to get Florida into the playoffs. Luongo had a .929 save percentage and 2.47 GAA in 35 games last season. The key is his health. If he can start 50 games, give or take a few here and there, and if he puts up similar numbers to last season, or even slightly worse numbers, the Panthers should be able to score enough to win a lot of games. Luongo was one of the best goalies in the NHL from Feb. 17 to the end of the season, going 12-5-1 with a .930 save percentage and 2.36 GAA in 20 games. Similarly, if Reimer plays closer to the 2016-17 version of himself (2.53 GAA and .920 save percentage in 43 games) as opposed to the 2017-18 version (2.99 GAA and .913 save percentage in 44 games), the Panthers should be able to compete for a playoff spot. I don't believe that's asking too much from him.

 

Of the multitude of Ottawa Senators players mentioned as trade candidates, one name I haven't heard is Matt Duchene, yet I can't imagine he wants to stay in Ottawa during a painful rebuild. What's his status beyond the 2018-19 season? -- @BrandoWriter

I don't think Duchene's status with Ottawa is off the radar for Senators fans. They know he has one year left on his contract and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2019. They know what it took to get him in that three-team trade with the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators on Nov. 5, and they know that the cost still could increase. The Senators still must give the Avalanche their first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft as part of the trade that also sent center Kyle Turris to the Predators and goalie Andrew Hammond, forward Shane Bowers and a third-round pick in the 2019 draft to the Avalanche. They could have given Colorado their first-round pick this year, but they kept it and selected forward Brady Tkachuk at No. 4. Next year, the first-round pick going to Colorado isn't lottery protected, meaning potentially it could be the No. 1 pick. That's a huge reason why I doubt Duchene is going anywhere soon. There is simply no way the Senators will be able to get back the value they gave up to get Duchene if they trade him now.

I am not predicting the Senators to be a playoff team this season, but they have great incentive beyond the obvious to be better than they were last season, when they were 30th in the NHL standings. They must avoid being at the bottom of the NHL and the potential for their first-round pick in 2019 to be better than No. 4. It's also too early to know what Duchene thinks of the Senators now because we still don't know what type of team they're going to be this season, what type of chemistry they're going to develop and what they would get back in a potential Erik Karlsson trade, which is still their biggest issue that needs to be resolved.

 

With the depth of wings now in the Sabres organization, how much longer should players like Nicholas Baptiste, Justin Bailey and Alexander Nylander be expected to be patient? I like the moves they made but players we thought were going to get a shot realistically won't make the big club. -- @TommyConroy10

What about patience from general manager Jason Botterill and coach Phil Housley? They can't wait for Baptiste, Bailey and Nylander to prove they belong in the NHL. They must make the Sabres better now, which is what Buffalo tried to accomplish this offseason by acquiring Skinner, Conor Sheary, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson in three different trades. The competition to crack the Sabres lineup should be better this season because their depth is improved. That should push players like Baptiste, Bailey and Nylander to be better. If they prove they belong, I fully expect Botterill and Housley will find roles for them in Buffalo this season. But they have to prove it or else the patience from the Sabres' end will run out.

Nylander is coming off a season when he had 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists) in 51 games with Rochester of the AHL. He was the No. 8 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, so the Sabres have a lot invested in him. He's also 20 years old, so there's plenty of time for him to develop. But a breakout professional season, whether that's in the AHL or the NHL, is a must for Nylander this season.

Baptiste and Bailey are each 23 and require waivers to be sent down to the AHL this season, meaning their time in the organization could be limited if they don't make a stand in training camp. Neither has wowed to the point where they have become lineup regulars in their time in the NHL.

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