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Over The Boards

Wild's playoffs, Yakupov's future among questions

Dan Rosen answers weekly mail

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the March 30 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday during the 2015-16 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

You have been a huge proponent of the Minnesota Wild all year. Do you see them making the playoffs and doing any damage? -- @TravKnops

Here is the March 30 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday during the 2015-16 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

You have been a huge proponent of the Minnesota Wild all year. Do you see them making the playoffs and doing any damage? -- @TravKnops

Yes, I definitely have been a huge proponent of the Wild. They were my preseason pick to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. If I had to do that all over again, clearly I would not pick them, but I did and I'm cool with it. They'll make the playoffs and they can do some damage if they get there. They have some experience, and they should have some hunger too. They may run up against the Dallas Stars or St. Louis Blues and they'd be huge underdogs, but we always see underdogs win in the playoffs. The biggest problem the Wild have is they don't have a No. 1 center. It's a glaring problem and one they must try to fix during the offseason. It can be done. The Nashville Predators didn't have one for so many years, but they found a way to get Ryan Johansen by trading from a position of strength, their defense. The Wild's defense is also a position of strength. They need a No. 1 center. It's too hard to win in the playoffs without one. I should have considered that before picking them.

Video: MIN@COL: Parise nets PPG for his second of the game

What is the reasoning behind allowing NCAA players to not sign with the team who drafted them? Can/will the NHL stop it? -- @desantbt

It's written into the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams who draft NCAA players have four years from the time they draft them to sign them provided they remain college players. They must be signed by Aug. 15 of the year four years following their draft year. So, for the Nashville Predators, they selected Jimmy Vesey in the third round (No. 66) of the 2012 NHL Draft, giving them until Aug. 15, 2016 to sign him. Vesey, who completed four years at Harvard, has told the Predators he will not sign with them. If he remains unsigned after Aug. 15, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. In recent years we've seen Justin Schultz, Kevin Hayes and Mike Reilly follow the same path. It's rare, but it happens. As for if the NHL can and/or will stop it, that's a CBA issue. This is a collectively bargained issue with the NHL Players' Association. I'm sure the NHL will attempt to stop this from happening in the next CBA, but I have no idea if the NHLPA will go for it. This clause in the CBA gives NCAA players the ability to choose their own path after four years. What people need to remember is just because a player is drafted doesn't mean he owes anything to the team drafting him. Vesey has decided he doesn't want to play for the Predators. Criticize him if you want, but that's his right.

Video: ANA@EDM: Yakupov's one-timer trims deficit to one

Who should try to trade for Nail Yakupov? -- @whoopoi

A team with room in its top-six forward group. It's not worth acquiring Yakupov if you don't plan on playing him in your top six. He's not a bottom-six forward. That much is very clear from his time with the Edmonton Oilers. I could see the New York Islanders being a good landing spot, especially if Kyle Okposo is going to leave as an unrestricted free agent. Yakupov with John Tavares and Ryan Strome is intriguing. The Boston Bruins might have room in their top six if Loui Eriksson also signs elsewhere on July 1 or after. How would Yakupov look on a line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak? Pretty good, probably. Other teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning (if Steven Stamkos and/or Jonathan Drouin aren't back) and the Montreal Canadiens could or maybe should be in the mix. Notice I went with all Eastern Conference teams. That's on purpose. Yakupov might be better in the Eastern Conference, where the hockey isn't as physically brutal as it is in the West with the big teams out there. If you're going with a Western team, I'd go with the Predators. If they had room for Vesey in their top six right now, they'd have room for Yakupov.

Video: DET@MTL: Green snipes power-play goal for the lead

Do you expect lots of changes for the Detroit Red Wings if they miss the playoffs? Or will they stay the course? -- @WhiteSox4life

I wouldn't expect wholesale changes, but I think they'll try to change a few things, starting by trading Jimmy Howard. Petr Mrazek is clearly struggling, but he's also clearly the No. 1 goalie there now and will be unless they make the playoffs, these struggles continue and Howard is excellent. Mrazek needs a new contract after the season, and I can't see how in any world the Red Wings would be OK with keeping a backup goalie, or even a 1B goalie, with a cap hit of $5.29 million. Howard has to be trade bait for the Red Wings. The problem is that they might be forced to retain some of his salary to find a suitable deal. It would be worth it, because Mrazek could get a contract that pays him upwards of $5 million or more (yes, despite his recent struggles). They can't keep Howard's $5.29 million on the cap. Other than that, there will be adjustments to maybe better suit the power play going forward, but I can't see too much changing. Anthony Mantha should start next season in Detroit. Dylan Larkin will have experience and be a year older. The Red Wings just need more from everyone else, including Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

Video: CAR@NYI: Okposo slips it past Ward

What's your opinion on what happens if the New York Islanders miss the playoffs? -- @RTaub_

I would think that coach Jack Capuano's job would be in jeopardy, if not lost altogether. The new ownership group led by Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin takes over the majority share from Charles Wang after this season, and I highly doubt they'll stand still if the Islanders collapse this season. I expect Kyle Okposo won't return. Defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Brian Strait are also probably goners. I'd re-sign Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin. But I'd do what I can to find a No. 2 center in order to play Nielsen on the third line, where I think he's at his best. Martin will be cheap and he's part of that excellent fourth line that should remain intact. They're likely going to trade Travis Hamonic, not out of want but because he requested a trade and you don't want an unhappy player on your hands. The hope is that they can get back a forward to play in their top six, if not a center than someone to play with John Tavares. But to be honest, other than Capuano's job, I would imagine all these changes are going to happen regardless if they get in. Other potential trades are impossible to predict. Jaroslav Halak still has two years remaining on a contract that carries a $4.5 million salary-cap charge, so I don't think he's going anywhere.

Video: BUF@PIT: Moulson jams home rebound past Murray

How far away are the Buffalo Sabres from being a serious contender? -- @scottaferguson1

If you're talking about being a serious contender to be a playoff team, I'd say two years. I felt the Sabres, with all the changes they made last summer, could be an 80-point team this season; it would be a 26-point upgrade from last season. They have 73 points with five games remaining. So let's just say conservatively they get better next season. I'd say 90 points is realistic. It certainly should be if they continue to upgrade the roster this summer, add another high draft pick if possible, and get more from Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and maybe Hudson Fasching, among others. Ninety points won't get them in the playoffs, but it's another step in the right direction. That puts them on pace to be a serious playoff contender in 2017-18. That's realistic.

Do the Columbus Blue Jackets hold onto John Tortorella or do they hire someone else over the summer? -- @rangersofny

He's not going anywhere, at least I don't think so. He signed a three-year contract, and he's done a solid job all things considered. The Blue Jackets are 30-31-8 since he took over on Oct. 21. Remember, they were 0-7-0 under Todd Richards to start the season. They were inept on defense to start the season, a fact overlooked by so many of us who do preseason predictions and had them in the playoffs (yours truly included). They got better in that area when they got Seth Jones, but they depleted their center depth by trading Ryan Johansen. They are a young team. They are a work in progress. Their strong finish last season, considering all the injuries they had throughout the season, plus the addition of Brandon Saad made a lot of people (yours truly) believe they could be a playoff team this season. They have just too many holes. But Tortorella has done a good-enough job working with them this season that he deserves a full training camp and full season to see what kind of progress can be made. They need to give him at least that much.

How much does it negatively impact the Chicago Blackhawks in the postseason having Scott Darling in net vs. Corey Crawford -- @klindriv

This one seems obvious. You're putting in a backup instead of a two-time Stanley Cup winner who could be a Vezina Trophy finalist. It would likely have a massive impact on the Blackhawks' chances of repeating. It is alarming that Crawford hasn't returned to the ice in any capacity yet, but there's time for him to get back, play one or two games and be ready to go for the playoffs. However, as the days dwindle with no sign of him in practice, the fear rightly grows that he may not be available. Blackhawks beat writer Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reported he heard from a source that Crawford might be dealing with a head injury, and perhaps the same vertigo issues that plagued Bryan Bickell in the playoffs last season.

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