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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Duchene's future, Bruins layoff before Cup Final

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the May 22 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which runs every Wednesday. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Where do you see Matt Duchene ending up? I know the Montreal Canadiens have had interest for a while. Can the Nashville Predators free up enough cap space to fit Duchene or will the Columbus Blue Jackets give up another first to re-sign him? -- @bshah79

I spoke to Duchene about his future during the Blue Jackets' run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and he said he will explore every option before making what is likely going to be the most important decision of his playing career. He's not ruling anything out, including a return to the Blue Jackets because he realizes there could be a bright future in Columbus for him and his family. However, since you're asking me to handicap it right now, my prediction is that he will sign with the Predators.

Most importantly, Duchene wants to be on a team that is a perennial playoff contender. The Predators should be. He wants to go to a team that needs his services, where he will have a defined role. Nashville needs more front-line scoring and help on a power play that was last in the NHL during the regular season (12.9 percent) and went 0-for-15 in a six-game loss to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference First Round. Duchene, who had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 10 playoff games this season and 70 points (31 goals, 39 assists) in 73 games this season for the Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators, could become the Predators No. 2 center behind Ryan Johansen, and he'd likely be a key cog on their first power-play unit as the forward who plays down low. He's excellent at retrieving pucks and making plays from the wall.

Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm3: Duchene doubles lead with PPG

What the Predators would do with forward Kyle Turris remains to be seen. Trading him is an option they'd likely explore, but a $6 million per season cap charge for the next five seasons will be difficult to move, especially when it belongs to a player coming off a season in which he had 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) in 55 games. Turris signed his six-year, $36 million contract with the Predators on Nov. 5, 2017, the day they acquired him from the Senators in the three-team trade that sent Duchene to Ottawa from the Colorado Avalanche. Short of trading Turris, the Predators could always make him their No. 3 center. 

Nashville likely would have to make other moves to fit in Duchene, but it has flexibility, especially since forwards Mikael Granlund ($5.75M) and Craig Smith ($4.25M) each has one year remaining on their current contracts. The Predators could trade one or both before July 1 to free the cap room and get assets in return. I also feel the Predators will explore trading defenseman P.K. Subban, who has a $9 million cap charge per season for three more seasons. If they move Subban, some of the money they free up will likely be put toward captain Roman Josi's next contract since he has one more year left on his current deal and is likely going to sign an extension. But some of that money could also go to Duchene.

 

Do you have concern for the Boston Bruins going into the Stanley Cup Final because of the long break or are they experienced enough that it won't matter? -- @TJRinger1

They're experienced enough to handle a long layoff, but there should be concern because the Bruins will have had 10 days between games when they play Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS). Ten days between games can feel like an eternity to players because they're so used to playing every other day and practicing just enough between games to build up a sweat and keep their muscles loose. The biggest concern should lie with goalie Tuukka Rask. He's been in such a zone that it's fair to wonder if having so much time between games will take him out of it. Like skaters, it's hard for a goalie to simulate game intensity in practice or in an intrasquad scrimmage, which the Bruins will hold at TD Garden on Thursday. The pressure just isn't the same when you're practicing against teammates. The way your teammates shoot on you is different too. The Bruins players are not going to tee off on Rask. They don't want anything to happen to him. 

This postseason has shown there is cause for concern in Boston. The New York Islanders got swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round after having nine days between games following their sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. The Hurricanes were swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final after having five days between games following their sweep of the Islanders in the second round. The Blue Jackets lost in six games against the Bruins after having eight days between games, a result of them sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. 

 

Will Phil Kessel be traded? -- @ChristianBohon

My hunch is that the Pittsburgh Penguins will trade the veteran forward this offseason to open some cap space and to change the dynamic of the team. Outside of Sidney Crosby, who had another sensational season, the Penguins got stale this season and GM Jim Rutherford knows it. Rutherford openly wondered if the Penguins core players got content with their success and where they are in their careers after winning the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017. If he determines that is the case, it's incumbent upon the Penguins to make changes to bring back the passion and determination in the team. That likely means changing out some of the pieces that helped the Penguins win those championships. Moving Kessel will certainly send a message that what happened this season - being swept in the first round of the playoffs -- is unacceptable. It will also give Pittsburgh cap flexibility to make some other changes. The Penguins started to change the dynamic this season by acquiring forwards Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann from the Florida Panthers, defenseman Erik Gudbranson from the Vancouver Canucks and defenseman Marcus Pettersson from the Anaheim Ducks. Those moves should continue to pay off next season and beyond. But the Penguins weren't hard enough to play against this season. They were a risk-taking team. They won when those risks paid off, they lost when they didn't. It can't continue while their window to win is open.

Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Kessel snaps one home from slot

 

Do you think the Arizona Coyotes make a push for a pure goal-scorer in the offseason? In my opinion, that's really all they are lacking. -- @Puck_Dylan

Funny you should ask, because I think the Coyotes will explore a trade for Kessel, who is a goal-scorer and a playmaker. There is a fit for him in Arizona, especially since Rick Tocchet is the Coyotes coach. Tocchet was an assistant with the Penguins during Kessel's first two seasons in Pittsburgh (2015-17). They hit it off and had an excellent working relationship, with Tocchet basically taking the role of the go between for Kessel and coach Mike Sullivan. The Coyotes need scoring, and general manager John Chayka is always on the hunt in the market, rarely scared off by any trade as long as the price makes sense. Arizona certainly needs a first-line right wing and a go-to scorer on the power play. Kessel would fill each hole. Since the Penguins believe they're still a Cup contender, I think they'd likely want NHL players in return for Kessel instead of picks and prospects. Some of the Coyotes players that could entice the Penguins are forwards Christian Dvorak, Vinnie Hinostroza, Christian Fischer, Conor Garland and Lawson Crouse. All five are 25 and younger. Unless there's a deal that blows the Coyotes away, it's likely forwards Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz and Barrett Hayton, and defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph are untouchable. 

 

Despite the Islanders being one of the quietest teams in the League with Lou Lamoriello at the helm, what do you think the future of their goaltending is? Will Robin Lehner do a short-term contract with Russian prospect Ilya Sorokin having one year left on his Kontinental Hockey League deal? -- @johnfiorino97

Lehner, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, might be seeking more years than the Islanders would be willing to give him. He is a Vezina Trophy finalist after going 25-13-5 with a 2.13 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and six shutouts. He shares the William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed with Thomas Greiss (196 including shootout winners). From the Islanders perspective, though, I don't think they should go any longer than three years with Lehner. That gives them one more year of status quo with Lehner and Greiss, who has one year left on his contract, before Sorokin can come to North America. Sorokin has one year left on his KHL contract with CSKA Moscow. He helped CSKA Moscow win the Gagarin Cup as KHL champions and was named the Gagarin Cup MVP. It's possible that Sorokin could join Lehner on the Islanders in the second year of Lehner's contract. Maybe by the third year, Sorokin is ready to take over as the No. 1. That's a relatively reasonable succession plan considering we also have no idea how Sorokin's game will translate in the NHL.

Video: NYI@CAR, Gm4: Lehner denies Svechnikov on doorstep

But maybe that plan doesn't sit well with Lehner, which is why it wouldn't surprise me if he explores his market value. The Blue Jackets and Hurricanes could each be in the market for No. 1 goalies this offseason if Sergei Bobrovsky and Petr Mrazek leave those respective teams. The Calgary Flames might let Mike Smith become an unrestricted free agent, which means they'd be in the market for either a No. 1 or at least someone to compete with David Rittich for playing time. The Florida Panthers could be in a similar situation, especially if they think the price for Bobrovsky is too steep. The point is there could be options for Lehner, who is in the driver's seat after this season. He doesn't have to jump at the first offer.

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