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Mailbag: Kovalchuk impact with Kings, best Draft, Capitals backup goalie

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the June 27 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run Wednesdays periodically throughout the offseason. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

What kind of impact should we expect from Ilya Kovalchuk in Los Angeles? -- @imshawntaggart

A great question that is hard to answer right now because Kovalchuk hasn't played in the NHL in five seasons and the game has gotten faster since he left. Can he still skate well enough to play in the NHL? That's to be determined. Los Angeles Kings president Luc Robitaille told me he can. TSN analyst and former Calgary Flames general manager Craig Button, who watched Kovalchuk at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, said he can't. I'll reserve my judgment until I see him in action in the NHL.

Video: Kovalchuk agrees to three-year contract with Kings

As for potential impact, the Kings are banking on a player who can shoot the puck as well as he ever could and score goals like he used to, ideally close to 30, to boost an offense that was 16th in the NHL this season (2.89 goals per game) and is 22nd in four seasons since Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup in 2014 (2.67).

Robitaille said he thinks Kovalchuk can be effective with Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter as his center. Robitaille is probably right about that, but how effective are we talking about? The one thing with Kovalchuk is he doesn't make the Kings younger and he doesn't make them faster at a time when the NHL is trending young and speed is at a premium.

 

Which team drafted the best in Dallas this year? Who are some steals? -- @k_corpstein

Let's first knock out the obvious. Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin to the Buffalo Sabres at No. 1 and right wing Andrei Svechnikov to the Carolina Hurricanes at No. 2 are potential game-changers for each team. I expect they'll each be in the NHL next season and in the discussion for the Calder Trophy provided they stay healthy.

The New York Islanders are right to be thrilled with their haul in the first round with right wing Oliver Wahlstrom and defenseman Noah Dobson falling to them at Nos. 11 and 12. Dobson was No. 5 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, and Wahlstrom was No. 7. Each was projected by many draft experts to be a top 10 pick. Wahlstrom is a scorer and playmaker who idolizes Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin. Dobson said he models his game after St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

Video: Spotlighting No. 11 pick Oliver Wahlstrom

I couldn't answer this question without asking Mike Morreale, one of our resident draft experts, for a heads-up on who he thinks did well at the draft. The first team he brought up was the Detroit Red Wings because of how fortunate they were to have right wing Filip Zadina fall to them at No. 6 and center Joseph Veleno be available at No. 30. Mike also liked the Red Wings' selection of right wing Jonathan Berggren at No. 33, saying he has the potential to be like Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson, an underrated playmaker and scorer. Mike also liked defenseman Jared McIsaac at No. 36 for his steadiness, vision and physicality.

Mike also mentioned the Chicago Blackhawks because of how they fortified their defensemen in the first round with Adam Boqvist at No. 8 and Nicolas Beaudin at No. 27. Mike said center Jake Wise, the No. 69 pick, is in the mold of Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck. And Mike said right wing Niklas Nordgren could be the steal of the draft for where he was picked (No. 74). Nordgren, who is from Finland, led the IIHF World Under-18 Championship with eight goals in seven games. He had 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) in 28 games for HIFK in Finland's junior league.

 

Now that goaltender Philipp Grubauer has been traded to the Colorado Avalanche and Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan stated that Ilya Samsonov will start in the AHL, who do you expect to backup Braden Holtby to start the season? Pheonix Copley seems like a candidate but doesn't have the experience. Do you expect MacLellan to sign a backup? -- @JRempe55

It looks like it's Copley's job to lose; at least that's how MacLellan made it sound when he addressed the media about the trade. MacLellan admitted it would be a challenge for Copley, who has played two NHL games, each with the Blues, but he's willing to give him the opportunity.

"We're going to give him a shot, see what he can do," MacLellan said. "And then we've got Samsonov coming over to play in Hershey (American Hockey League), so I think we're pretty good in depth."

That's all well and good, but if MacLellan explores the goalie market and finds a veteran willing to take a one-year contract to compete to be Holtby's backup, I think it makes a lot of sense to sign him. Goaltending depth is too important and allowing for the unknown or the inexperienced could create problems. I think it's like the situation last season with the New York Rangers, after they traded Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes. The Rangers needed a backup for Henrik Lundqvist and signed Ondrej Pavelec. He played well enough early, but an injury paved the way for Alexandar Georgiev to get some starts late in the season. He was solid, which is why he's a candidate to be Lundqvist's backup this season, along with Marek Mazanec.

The free agent market could have several veteran goalies who could be a solid backup for Holtby, including Jaroslav Halak, Kari Lehtonen, Robin Lehner, Jonathan Bernier, Chad Johnson and Anton Khudobin. I don't know if the Capitals will sign any of them, but if they can find one willing to take the same type of contract as Pavelec signed with New York last year, I think it's worth it.

 

What is the most likely outcome of the Artemi Panarin situation? -- @JD312

It's just too early to tell. That Panarin, who has one year remaining on his contract, doesn't want to enter negotiations for an extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets certainly is cause for concern and is reason enough for trade talk about him to pick up, but it's too soon for the Blue Jackets to act in that regard. They need to let this play out a little longer. Why get rid of Panarin now when they don't have to? Why not be patient, go into next season with their most skilled player on the roster, and continue to try to persuade him to come to the negotiating table? If by the middle of next season Panarin remains unwilling to negotiate with the Blue Jackets, that's when GM Jarmo Kekalainen must decide on what's best for Columbus' present and future.

The only way to make a Panarin trade work now for the Blue Jackets is to get equal value in return, meaning impact NHL players who can help Columbus win immediately.

But if teams think they can wait until January or February and get Panarin without making a player-for-player trade, instead getting him for prospects and draft picks, they're going to do that. The Blue Jackets are better off waiting.

 

Why have Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk not been traded yet? It seemed that the Ilya Kovalchuk and John Carlson deals would have opened the flood gates, but all I hear is crickets. -- @TylerDonnellyTD

I haven't heard much on these two Hurricanes players this week, but a lot of that likely has to do with the fact that GMs across the NHL are spending a lot of time meeting with pending free agents, interviewing them to gauge interest and talk contract terms. It's conceivable that trade chatter has been put on the backburner as a result. It doesn't mean it won't pick up later this week, when GMs have an idea of how the market could play out starting Sunday, when the free agent signing period begins. There will be a lot of circling back later this week.

 

Do you think Rick Nash would go back to either Columbus or the New York Rangers if he had the choice? -- @TheGracefulGoon

Yes and yes. Nash loved his time in each place. He lives in Columbus in the offseason and will settle there full-time when he retires. He has a growing young family, with his wife expecting their third child, to go along with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. He is looking for the best place for his family and a place where he could compete for the Stanley Cup. Columbus would be an ideal fit, especially because he wouldn't have to move.

The Rangers aren't in compete-for-the-Cup mode, but I think Nash would go back there. Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said he is looking for character players in free agency who could mentor the younger players expected to play bigger roles in New York this season, including forwards Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil and, potentially, forward Brett Howden and defensemen Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren. Nash would be perfect for the Rangers in that role. Plus he can still play. He's not elite anymore, but he's certainly an effective two-way player who gets to the net and can be useful on special teams.

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