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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Panthers' chances of signing Panarin, NHL Draft, Devils' options

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the May 29 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which runs every Wednesday. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

Does Joel Quenneville swing the tables for the Florida Panthers as far as signing Artemi Panarin or does John Davidson coming to the New York Rangers keep things even? -- @rock1193

Quenneville and his familiarity with Panarin is one reason I think the Panthers will get him. There's also the opportunity to play with an elite center in either Aleksander Barkov or Vincent Trocheck. There's the chance to play with his good friend, forward Evgenii Dadonov. The Panthers are built to win now even though they've struggled. The Sergei Bobrovsky factor is big. If the Panthers can get the goalie too, that would make Panarin even more comfortable off the ice and make him feel better knowing Florida's goaltending is secure. Then there's the weather, the proximity to South Beach and the fact that Florida is one of seven states that doesn't impose an income tax.

Davidson is big for the Rangers, but I don't know of a player who has signed with a team because of an executive. That's not something that sways decisions. If the Rangers get Panarin, it will be because they're the Rangers, they're on the rise, and it's New York.

Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm4: Panarin taps loose puck past Rask

 

Purely fantasy-wise, who will have a bigger impact, Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko? My league is a multi-cat keeper league with a real life-size salary cap. Is Kakko a top-six winger next season? Is Hughes the New Jersey Devils' No. 2 center? -- @tdjupsjo

For the answer, we have to assume, as you do with the question, that Hughes will be selected by the Devils with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and, in all likelihood, Kakko will be taken by the Rangers at No. 2. Kakko is a top-six wing and Hughes would be the Devils' No. 2 center, unless he develops better chemistry with left wing Taylor Hall than Nico Hischier already has. That's part of the equation and is something that has to be considered. If Hughes ends up playing with Hall and right wing Kyle Palmieri, his numbers will be better than if he plays on the second line with perhaps Blake Coleman and Joey Anderson. But you won't know that before you draft. So let's take what we know, and that is Hischier would have the upper hand to play with Hall and Palmieri, leaving Hughes on the second line and possibly on the second power-play unit. That will impact his production. Kakko has a chance to play first-line minutes with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, if the Rangers don't trade him. He could be on the first power-play unit. I think Kakko, with his size, his wall play and his underrated playmaking skills, has a chance to have a Brock Boeser-type rookie season. Boeser had 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists) in 62 games as a rookie with the Vancouver Canucks two seasons ago. That's a 38-goal, 34-assist pace in an 82-game season. I'm not sure Kakko will put up those numbers, but it's reasonable to think he could score in the 20s and get into the 50s in points. Hughes might be in the teens and 40s if he's not on the first line or the first power play.

Video: Highlights of USA Hockey NTDP forward Jack Hughes

Long term, Hughes has the chance to impact the game in more ways than Kakko, but part of that is positional based since he's a center. TSN analyst Craig Button, who is among the most familiar with Hughes and Kakko, told me the top of this year's draft reminds him of 1988, when Mike Modano went first to the Minnesota North Stars and Trevor Linden went second to the Canucks, and the 2017 Draft, when Hischier went first to the Devils and Nolan Patrick went second to the Philadelphia Flyers. It's about playmaking and skill vs. size and the ability to handle the physical demands of the NHL. Modano had a better career than Linden, and Hischier is off to a better start than Patrick.

 

Will the Buffalo Sabres ever make the Stanley Cup Playoffs? -- @Debers16

The short answer is yes. When? No clue. The Sabres have some high-end talent with forwards Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, and defensemen Rasmus Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen and Brandon Montour leading the way, but they're not deep at the NHL level and organizationally. They also have questions at the goaltending position. Depth and goaltending are so important in the NHL today. Look at the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final; they are two of the deepest teams in the League with some of the best goaltending. It's not a surprise they're in the Cup Final. The Sabres are trying to build their depth, but it's hard to accomplish without continuity. The Bruins and Blues have built depth around their veterans; the Sabres do not have a veteran core. Big problem. They'll get back into the playoffs eventually, but I just don't see how it's going to happen next season unless general manager Jason Botterill does some major surgery to the roster and the players, many of whom have already gone through two coaches in the past four seasons (Dan Bylsma and Phil Housley), buy into new coach Ralph Krueger's ways and help him change the culture.

 

Who are some players the New Jersey Devils can target in free agency/trades to improve the roster? -- @SeverinoHive

P.K. Subban immediately comes to mind. It's not a guarantee that the Nashville Predators will trade the veteran right-handed defenseman, but if they do the Devils should be first in line. They have top forwards in Hischier, Hall and Kyle Palmieri. They will get Hughes or Kakko. They should be optimistic that goalie Cory Schneider can come back strong. He was good for the United States in the 2019 IIHF World Championship (2.49 goals-against average, .920 save percentage in six games). But New Jersey doesn't have a No. 1 defenseman who can also run the power play. They need a top player like Subban on the back end. It could cost them defenseman Damon Severson or Will Butcher and more in a trade, but Subban is worth it. They have the salary cap room to add his $9 million charge for the next three seasons and the Predators could be looking to shed that contract so they can re-sign captain Roman Josi, who has one year left on his contract, and build up their forward group to add offense.

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm1: Subban spins off defender and scores

Other names to consider via trade are Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba, Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Miller. Trouba is a 25-year-old right-handed shutdown defenseman. It'll cost a lot to get him and then the Devils have to sign him because he's about to become a restricted free agent. Nugent-Hopkins can play the wing if the Devils select Hughes and use him as the No. 2 center with Hischier as the No. 1. If Hughes isn't ready to be a top-six center, the Devils could use Nugent-Hopkins in that role. Miller can play all three forward positions. He would also give them an option at center if Hughes isn't available. If they instead choose to go the free agent route, some names to consider are forwards Jeff Skinner and Jordan Eberle, and defensemen Erik Karlsson, Jake Gardiner and Tyler Myers. If the Devils can sign Karlsson to a reasonable contract (meaning no longer than five years), that could be better than trading for Subban because it requires them to give up only money. I have no idea what will happen with Karlsson. I've asked many people, and no one really has anything firm on it other than most believe he will hit the market.

 

What American Hockey League players in this year's Calder Cup Final could make the biggest splash in the NHL next season because of their deep runs this postseason? -- @puckfollower

Very interesting question and it brings up the opportunity to mention the Calder Cup Finals between the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes) and Chicago Wolves (Vegas Golden Knights). Game 1 is in Charlotte on Saturday.

The key player to look at from the Wolves is center Cody Glass, the No. 6 pick at the 2017 NHL Draft. He has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 17 games in the Calder Cup Playoffs, impressive for a player who had a knee injury in January and was limited to 38 games with Portland of the Western Hockey League this season. Glass might be NHL ready by training camp next season, but making the Golden Knights' opening night lineup will be a chore since their current center depth features William Karlsson, Paul Stastny, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula and potentially Tomas Nosek. It's possible general manager Kelly McCrimmon uses that depth in a trade to fill other areas of need, which in theory would open the door for Glass, who should be in a top-nine role if he's playing for Vegas.

From the Checkers, forward Martin Necas is the one to watch. He has seven points (two goals, five assists) in 13 playoff games after finishing third on his team in the regular season with 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 64 games. I expect Necas, who is 20 years old, to be a regular in the Hurricanes lineup next season if healthy. He could replace Micheal Ferland, who is expected to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Depending on what happens with captain Justin Williams and the potential role he'll play if he re-signs, Necas could move into a top-six role.

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