Who do you feel would be the best trade deadline acquisition for the Nashville Predators as a top-six winger? -- @mooseforbes27
The answer depends on the approach the Predators take ahead of the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET, Feb. 26).
If the Predators are looking at rentals, the only top-six forwards likely available are Evander Kane from the Buffalo Sabres and Rick Nash from the New York Rangers. I like how each of them would fit in Nashville, but I lean toward Nash because he has played in 77 Stanley Cup Playoff games and Kane hasn't played in any. I also like Nash's two-way game, which features a strong presence on the penalty kill, and his ability to play in a shutdown role if required.
Video: Discussing trade scenarios for Rick Nash
The Predators could look at players with term remaining on their contract because they have enough NHL salary cap room this season and moving forward. The Predators have cost certainty with 19 of their roster players signed through at least next season, including defenseman Ryan Ellis, whose cap charge of $2.5 million through next season might be the best bargain in the NHL. The Predators could try to pry Mike Hoffman away from the Ottawa Senators or Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens. Each is signed through next season. The other potential option from Montreal is Alex Galchenyuk, who is signed through next season.
What do you think is the right course for the New York Rangers? If full rebuild, is it possible they get a top-five or dare I say top-three pick in this year's draft? And what prospects of theirs have stood out to you? -- @HayimbanuPeter
I don't expect a full rebuild from the Rangers. I don't think any team that fails to make the playoffs and gets a top-five pick in the lottery would trade out of that position unless the Rangers are willing to give up an asset like center Lias Andersson, center Filip Chytil or goalie Igor Shestyorkin.
Best guess: The Rangers trade Nash and forward Michael Grabner and try to trade defenseman Nick Holden and center David Desharnais. That takes care of their players on expiring contracts. Trading defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward Mats Zuccarello in the right deals makes sense because the Rangers can fetch quality returns of prospects, draft picks and/or young NHL roster players. McDonagh and Zuccarello each has one year remaining on his contract and will be over 30 when they need a new contract. If the Rangers trade either or both this season, the team acquiring them can get potentially two runs at the Stanley Cup for what is essentially the price of one and a quarter seasons. That could maximize the return.
The Rangers have enough young players and a deep prospect pool to retool on the fly rather than a full rebuild. And they'll survive and be competitive in the short term if Henrik Lundqvist can keep playing like an elite goalie.
Video: NYR@ANA: Grabner uses speed for breakaway SHG
To what degree do you credit Taylor Hall's resurgence to Nico Hischier's arrival and the turnaround of the New Jersey Devils in general? Rebuild went into fast mode along with Hischier's arrival. -- @MeierGilles
There are many reasons Hall is having such a strong season for the Devils, but it starts with the fact he's an elite skater and a dynamic scorer. Let's give him credit for that before we give credit to anybody or anything else for his success.
Hischier's arrival has helped Hall because it is part of the reason the Devils have been able to play a faster game, which is part of the reason they're a much better team. Comfort is also a big part of the equation for Hall. He went from having five coaches in six seasons with the Edmonton Oilers to a team in a different conference with another coach. It was a jarring experience in Edmonton and a jarring experience being traded. He's comfortable in New Jersey with coach Jon Hynes, his role on the Devils, and what he can and can't get away with. That's significant.
Video: NJD@BUF: Hall fires one past Lehner to extend lead
With top prospects like Kirill Kaprizov, Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin in the system, do you think the Minnesota Wild need to retool their team for the future if they miss the playoffs? -- @boyat_z
Short of making a blockbuster trade to acquire a dynamic scoring wing or No. 1 center they need, I don't see anything the Wild can do but retool. They have a number of veteran players signed beyond next season, including 10 signed through at least 2019-20. That doesn't preclude them from making some smaller trades to shake things up, and it certainly allows them room to give more opportunity to center Joel Eriksson Ek and a chance to work Kunin and Greenway into the lineup.
Eriksson Ek hasn't had near the impact offensively the Wild were hoping he would have this season with eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 46 games, but he turned 21 on Jan. 29, so some patience is obviously required. He has produced at lower levels, including eight points (three goals, five assists) in eight games with Iowa of the American Hockey League this season. Kunin is with Iowa and is likely closer to being in Minnesota and making an impact than Greenway, who is at Boston University and will play for the United States at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. Kunin had four points (two goals, two assists) in 17 games with the Wild earlier this season. He has 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 28 games in Iowa and played in the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic on Jan. 29. He could be back in Minnesota before the end of the season.
I expect Greenway, who is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, to turn pro after his college season ends, but he might need some extra development time in Iowa. Kaprizov is a goal scorer in the Kontinental Hockey League, but he's signed there through the 2019-20 season, which puts off his arrival in Minnesota until training camp in 2020 at the earliest. That is unless his contract with CSKA Moscow is bought out, which would allow him the option of coming to Minnesota earlier.
Regardless of the prospects, the Wild are in an interesting position because they have a team seemingly built to win now, even though it's missing that dynamic scoring element. Do they augment the core with a major move before the deadline or in the offseason, which would require moving around cap charges to make it work, or do they stand pat, add in some promising prospects next season and go at it again with the same core? And if they miss the playoffs this season, is general manager Chuck Fletcher the one who will be making these decisions? These are all questions that currently don't have answers, but I didn't pick the Wild to make the playoffs and my reservations haven't subsided.
Video: WPG@MIN: Kunin lasers home Niederreiter's feed
Why do the Tampa Bay Lightning look so out of sorts for the last month-plus despite a winning record? -- @Bolt_Man1992
Injuries and attrition. The Lightning were on an unsustainable pace in a league that has so much parity. They were bound to slow down, especially with a road-heavy schedule through most of January and into early February. They were first in the NHL in wins (27), points (56), goals (137) and power play (25.9 percent) going into Dec. 31, when they started a stretch of 13 of the 16 games on the road. Forward Ondrej Palat and defenseman Victor Hedman were healthy at that time. The Lightning went 4-1-1 from Dec. 31-Jan. 9, then started to falter. Palat got injured, Hedman got injured (he has since returned), and they are 5-5-0 since. Nikita Kucherov, their leading scorer with 27 goals and 66 points, hasn't scored a goal in 11 games.
But it's nothing to be alarmed about. The best teams every season go through stretches like this. The Lightning will play four of their next six games and 18 of their final 29 at home. Kucherov will come around. Palat will get healthy. General manager Steve Yzerman will likely acquire a defenseman to bolster the depth. And this average stretch will turn into a positive because a team that had everything going for it now understands it's not invincible.
Video: TBL@VAN: Kucherov gets 300th point on Hedman's tally
Who can you see the Islanders going after at the trade deadline to improve their defensive woes? If it can't be solved by one player, how do they improve their defense before it's too late? -- @johnfiorino97
There are rental defensemen who could be intriguing for the New York Islanders, including Mike Green from the Detroit Red Wings, Erik Gudbranson from the Vancouver Canucks, Luke Schenn from the Arizona Coyotes, and potentially Jack Johnson from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Islanders need help moving the puck out of the defensive zone and keeping it in the offensive zone. That's how you start giving up fewer shots. They also need to get in shot lanes. They've allowed at least 30 shots on goal in 20 straight games, including at least 40 in four in a row and in 10 of the 20.
Wouldn't it also be interesting if the Islanders tried to pry defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators? The price would be steep and, if I'm the Senators, I'm not doing it without center Mathew Barzal coming back in a trade. That's tough for the Islanders because Barzal is so valuable to them now, and especially with the uncertainty surrounding center John Tavares' future in the organization to consider trading him. But to get a player as good as Karlsson they'd have to be creative.
I've wondered about Oliver Ekman-Larsson from the Coyotes too, but my hunch is Arizona is telling teams the defenseman is not available. The Coyotes want to re-sign him and have the rest of the team built around him and rookie forward Clayton Keller.