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Mailbag: Panthers need to find identity

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Nov. 30 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday through the course of the 2016-17 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Will the Florida Panthers turn their game around after the firing of the coaches? -- @StefaniJanvier

The Panthers have the talent to do so, and though Tom Rowe hasn't coached an NHL team before, he has been on a lot of benches across the League as a player and an assistant, so he knows what's up and what he's doing. I think the bigger question for the Panthers is: What are they built for? Rowe says they're built for speed, that they want to be a fast team that plays fast all over the ice, meaning skating, puck movement, forechecking, attacking, etc. I haven't seen it yet. That might be part of the reason why Gerard Gallant was fired. But I'm also not sure the Panthers have enough speed to play the way Rowe believes they should play. We know Jaromir Jagr isn't fast. Nick Bjugstad isn't exactly a burner, although he's not slow. Speed isn't the first thing I think of when I think of Jussi Jokinen. Keith Yandle isn't a fast defenseman, nor does he play a fast game.

Those are just a few examples to illustrate my point. If they want to be a fast team, they have to play a fast game, but they may not be built to play the way the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers or Tampa Bay Lightning are. This doesn't mean the Panthers are doomed. Far from it; they have talent but they need to find their identity. If they do, they'll find consistency. I'm just not sure their identity is all about speed.

Video: NHL Now: 5 Minute Major - Panthers make a change

 

If you had to pick one player in the NHL to build your franchise around, who would it be? -- @tateharris9

Connor McDavid, provided I have stable and reliable goaltending. I'm not asking for Carey Price, just a quality goalie who can get the job done. If I have that, it's McDavid and it's not even close. I still think Sidney Crosby is the best player in the League, but McDavid is close and he's 10 years younger. If I'm starting a franchise today, I'm starting with the player who will soon be the best in the world.

 

The St. Louis Blues have won six of seven games since Nov. 12. Is their recent play sustainable? Are they a top-three team in the West? -- @chm1691

Some signs say yes. Some signs give me pause. But I think they are a top team in the Western Conference. That hasn't changed.

The Blues are scoring goals. They have 24 in the past seven games, 28 in the past eight if you go back to the 8-4 loss at the Columbus Blue Jackets that you referenced. They scored two goals or fewer in 10 of their previous 12 games. So the offense has come around, which is a good sign.

However, the Blues have allowed the first goal in five of their past seven games, an ominous sign. Yes, they won five of those games, but it's not easy to play from behind often in the NHL. Eventually it's going to come back to bite you. I wonder if it will bite the Blues soon if that trend continues. They have allowed 10 goals in the past three games.

The Blues have been excellent at home, going 10-1-2 at Scottrade Center, including five straight wins. The good news is they have three more games left on their current five-game homestand, but when it's over they will have played 16 games at home and 10 on the road. That leaves them with 31 road games and 25 home games. They are 3-6-1 away from Scottrade Center. Sooner or later, they're going to have to start winning on the road.

But in the end I think the Blues will finish no worse than second in the Central Division. A hot streak and they can leap the Chicago Blackhawks for first. They'll be OK.

Video: DAL@STL: Perron nets give-and-go to put Blues ahead

 

When will Dougie Hamilton and Sami Vatanen be New York Rangers? -- @McDonaghx27

Both? That's a little greedy. OK, it's a lot greedy.

But to your point, I have been hearing a lot about the Rangers' defense on Twitter and I understand where the angst is coming from. People wanted change from Dan Girardi and Marc Staal last season. They didn't get it. They wanted the Rangers to at least buy out Girardi's contract. It didn't happen. General manager Jeff Gorton said he thought Girardi would have a bounceback season. Guess what? Girardi has been better than he was last season. I know for most fans that's not good enough, but it's something, because in the salary cap era, teams can't just go buying out everyone who underperforms or acquiring players from other teams because those teams might have some cap issues to iron out.

Let's look at the facts: If the Rangers want to acquire either Hamilton or Vatanen (they're not getting both), that means it'll have to be a salary in-salary out type of trade. Hamilton has a $5.75 million cap charge and Vatanen has a $4.875 million cap charge, according to CapFriendly.com. The Rangers have approximately $2 million in cap room, according to the website. So who is going out in order to bring one of those two in? Not Girardi. Not Staal. Forget the fact they have no movement clauses; why would the Ducks or Flames want them and not Vatanen or Hamilton? So who leaves New York? Rick Nash and his $7.8 million cap charge? He's pretty valuable to the Rangers now, and it's a huge cap charge to move. That's not an easy trade to make. Derek Stepan? I wouldn't trade him. Plus, he has a $6.5 million cap charge. I wouldn't trade Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes or J.T. Miller, either. Looking ahead, the Rangers also need to re-sign Mika Zibanejad, who will get more than his current $2.625 million cap charge.

Now do you see my point? It's easy to identify defensemen to get, but it's not easy to get them. I'm not saying Gorton can't do it; he can. But these are difficult trades to make, and making one means parting with a significant piece and risking an asset in the future.

Video: OTT@CGY: Hamilton nets tough shot to give Flames lead

 

Do you think Dylan Strome will actually amount to much? -- @Phoenix_Jet

It's too soon to tell based on what we've seen, but I'll take Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett and GM John Chayka at their word when they say they like Strome and feel he is going to be a good NHL player, but that he needs more time to develop physically. I questioned sending Strome back to Erie of the Ontario Hockey League because I don't think he has anything left to prove there, and it could stunt his development if he doesn't play a pro-style game there. That's a hard thing to do when you're playing with junior players. I'm curious how it all winds up for Strome. But he has a high hockey IQ and he's a skilled playmaker. He does a lot of things well, he just needs to develop physically. Not everybody develops at the same pace, and there are times when we become too quick to label a player a bust. Strome is 19 years old. He's not Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews or Jack Eichel. He has a long way to go in terms of development, but he needs to be given time to do that. He needs to be given the benefit of the doubt now.

 

Expansion draft question: Teams can protect 11 players in one instance and nine in the other. Why isn't it the same amount for both? -- @dmango31

There are two options teams have and the one they choose depends on position, because some teams might be in a situation where they have to protect a certain number of forwards or defensemen based on no-movement clauses in their contracts or NHL experience.

Option A lets teams protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. That's the 11-player option.

Option B lets teams protect eight skaters regardless of position (forwards or defensemen) and one goalie.

So if teams want to protect seven defensemen they can do it, but it exposes all of their eligible forwards except for one. The League is giving teams the option for what they want to do. There are pros and cons to each.

 

At what point to the Detroit Red Wings go full rebuild and either commit to youth or sell, sell, sell? -- @DuboisAD

Who are they selling? They're not an ancient team. Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are their only 35-and-over players. They wouldn't get much for players like Steve Ott, Thomas Vanek, Drew Miller and Jonathan Ericsson. They just signed Frans Nielsen to a six-year contract, so he's not going anywhere. Mike Green's salary cap charge of $6 million makes him hard to trade. They probably could get something for Jimmy Howard, but it's tough to trade a goalie nowadays, especially when the selection of teams in need of a 32-year-old goalie signed for two more seasons after this one are limited. Maybe they expose Howard in the expansion draft and the Vegas Golden Knights take him. But Marc-Andre Fleury also could be available, so it's debatable.

Players such as Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, Riley Sheahan, Danny DeKeyser and Alexey Marchenko shouldn't be traded; they should just start playing better.

When you're looking to rebuild, the first thing you look for is players you can trade who can bring back significant value either in draft picks or prospects. I don't know that the Red Wings have enough of those players to warrant a fire sale.

Plus, the other thing to note here is that they're moving into a new building next season, and I would imagine the last thing the Red Wings want is to go into rebuild mode when they're trying to sell what they just built.

Video: DET@BUF: Nyquist caps great passing with slick goal

 

With the Buffalo Sabres two games under .500 and Jack Eichel back, are the playoffs still a possibility? -- @Smitty0717

Remote possibility at best. Getting Eichel back is huge. But they've dug themselves a hole, not necessarily by how many points they trail by but by how many teams are ahead of them. It's hard to make up points in this league when you struggle to put the puck in the net. Eichel will help in that department, but it's unlikely at this point that it will be enough. Crazier things have happened, but it's going to be very difficult.

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