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Mailbag: Laine could follow Ovechkin as League's top goal-scorer

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Oct. 11 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday throughout the 2017-18 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

If Connor McDavid is the next Sidney Crosby, who are your candidates for the next pure goal scorer like Alex Ovechkin? -- @briantodd34

Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine is the player who immediately comes to mind. Laine uses his powerful right-handed shot to hammer one-timers from the left circle, just like Ovechkin. He thinks like a goal-scorer rather than a playmaker, like Ovechkin. He absolutely loves to score goals, like Ovechkin. He can make a power move off the rush to get himself a scoring chance, just like Ovechkin. He can play stationary and beat a goalie with his quick release, just like Ovechkin. It's no surprise that Ovechkin was Laine's favorite player in the NHL before he arrived in Winnipeg.

Video: WPG@CGY: Laine cleans up rebound past Smith

 

Is it time for the Montreal Canadiens to consider a rebuild. If so, do they start with management? -- @TheGracefulGoon

The Canadiens won't go into a rebuild with goalie Carey Price in the prime of his NHL career and starting an eight-year contract next season that will have a reported annual average value of $10.5 million. Beyond that, let's slow down and give this season some time to breathe before going down the path that leads to a drastic rebuild. The Canadiens are conducting some experiments, most notably using Jonathan Drouin as their No. 1 center and 19-year-old rookie Victor Mete on the top defense pair with Shea Weber. Ironically, if you're going to look at needs for the Canadiens, it's another center and another defenseman. They have approximately $7.6 million in NHL salary-cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. That gives general manager Marc Bergevin leverage that other teams may not have, if he wants to use it. I still think Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche would be a solid fit as the No. 2 center behind Drouin, if Drouin proves to be a No. 1. Duchene carries a $6 million salary-cap charge for two more seasons, so he'd fit for the Canadiens this season and would replace Tomas Plekanec's $6 million cap charge next season. Plekanec is in the final year of his contract. 

If the Canadiens falter this season and miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs entirely or barely get in and lose in the first round, then I think it's reasonable to consider that they may entertain the idea of making some changes. But it's too early, and Bergevin still has some pucks in his bag that he could play to improve the roster and solidify the Canadiens as a top-three team in the Atlantic Division.

 

What are the Washington Capitals going to do about their defense? Who might be potential trade targets to get? -- @HarrisonB927077

The Capitals are in a tough spot. They need a defenseman who can play in their top-four group to replace Brooks Orpik, who they'd prefer played on the third pair and not the 22:21 per game he has averaged through three games this season. Orpik would be better utilized playing 17-18 minutes per game, still on the penalty kill but fewer 5-on-5 minutes. Unfortunately it's hard to acquire a top-four defenseman this early in the season without having to give up too much from your roster. The best time to do that is between the All-Star break and NHL Trade Deadline day, which this season would be between Jan. 26-Feb. 26. So for now I think the best bet is to watch the Capitals stand pat and wait.

One defenseman I'm keeping my eye on is Calvin de Haan of the New York Islanders. He signed a one-year contract reportedly valued at $3.3 million on Aug. 2 to avoid going into a salary arbitration hearing that day. He can be an unrestricted free agent after the season. It's too early to say this with any authority, but it's possible the Islanders, with the emergence of Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech, and the bright futures they see in Devon Toews and Sebastian Aho, eventually could view de Haan as expendable. As a left-handed shot, he'd fit into the Capitals' top-four group.

Video: Sabourin joins NHL Tonight to discuss the Caps' start

 

If Jimmy Howard can stay healthy all season, how would that impact the Detroit Red Wings' season? -- @Elgrandegato35

Positively, because quality goaltending always is a positive. However, the Red Wings' biggest issue is, will they score enough throughout the season to be a Stanley Cup Playoff contender? They need big seasons from forwards Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. As much as they are young players, they are young leaders. The Red Wings can't rely on center Henrik Zetterberg to carry the load anymore. He's terrific, but he needs help. And will the defense hold up? That's another big question. It would be huge for them to have Howard healthy all season, but he's not the make-or-break player in Detroit.

 

What's the deal with Vadim Shipachyov and the Vegas Golden Knights? -- @GodeIie

It's complicated because the collective bargaining agreement is complicated, but it's easy to understand if you see what general manager George McPhee is thinking and planning.

Shipachyov did not have to clear waivers to be sent to the American Hockey League, which is a key point in this. If he had to clear waivers, the Golden Knights wouldn't have tried to get him through to send him to the AHL because he likely wouldn't have made it. Shipachyov was sent to the AHL to preserve Vegas' assets who would have needed to clear waivers to go to the AHL. McPhee did the same thing with forward Alex Tuch and defenseman Shea Theodore, who also were waiver-exempt. McPhee is thinking long term, so if he can keep a player for now to use him in a future trade, he's going to do that, rather than risk putting him through waivers and potentially losing him for nothing. Sending Shipachyov to the AHL didn't cost the Golden Knights anything. If he's patient, Shipachyov will be back once McPhee irons out some other details with his roster. Remember, it's an expansion team, so even though the Golden Knights are playing for real now, McPhee is trying to build organizational depth. He doesn't want to lose an asset for nothing.

 

Do you think the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche are legitimately good, or are they both just on hot streaks? -- Jagr10190

I think expectations were low for each team, so success early in the season naturally creates a stir because it means they're seen as the pleasant surprises, teams that are going to defy the critics and the odds this season.

Let's wait before we make any of those proclamations.

The Devils look fast, which is a major change. They're a team with some young, fresh legs, a lot of energy, and they're feeling it. That's good. But it's about to get tougher. Let's see how they handle the rest of this week. They play at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, at home against the Washington Capitals on Friday, and at the New York Rangers on Saturday. That's three games in four nights against three teams that made the playoffs last season. They have another three-in-four set next week with games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, at the Ottawa Senators, and against the San Jose Sharks.

The Avalanche have gotten great goaltending from Semyon Varlamov. He was the difference in their 4-2 win against the New York Rangers on Thursday, making 37 saves. The Rangers outplayed the Avalanche that night, but the Avalanche took advantage of Varlamov's brilliance and some positional errors by the Rangers in the win. Colorado was good in a 4-0 win against Boston on Monday, but it's going to get tougher for them too. They have five games coming up against the Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and the Stars again. Let's see where they stand after those five games.

 

Is the San Jose Sharks' 0-2 start a mere hiccup, or a sign of trouble? -- @bloodfury96

I think it's an early sign of trouble. The key word, obviously, is early, but the Sharks have shown signs of struggling to score. They had a tough go of it in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. Kevin Labanc scored two goals in a season-opening 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. That's a good sign for Labanc, and he needs to keep it up, but the Sharks are going to need more from their top players than they got last season, with the exception of defenseman Brent Burns, who won the Norris Trophy after scoring 29 goals and 76 points. That said, if Burns isn't going to have the same type of offensive season as he did last season, then someone is going to have to make up for that too. They're already missing the 27 goals they got from Patrick Marleau. They didn't replace those. They has to come from San Jose's support players, Labanc, Mikkel Boedker, Joonas Donskoi and others. I do wonder if they have enough to get it done.

I think they'll get the defensive end worked out. It'll take some time. Remember, Bob Boughner ran San Jose's defense the past two seasons, but he's now coach of the Florida Panthers. A big reason for that is the Sharks had a top-five defense in each of the past two seasons. But even when they get that ironed out, will they score enough? It's a legitimate concern.

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