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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Maple Leafs coping with injuries on defense; Penguins' next move

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Jan. 15 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

What do the Toronto Maple Leafs do on 'D' after all these injuries? -- @gogreen1010

They'll be without Morgan Rielly for at least eight weeks because of a fractured foot. They're already playing without Jake Muzzin, who is out with a broken foot and is week to week. They recalled defensemen Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren from Toronto of the American Hockey League. Acquiring a defenseman in a trade is an option, allowable under the NHL salary cap now because forward Ilya Mikheyev is expected to miss the rest of the season on long-term injured reserve.

The value of a defenseman the Maple Leafs could acquire depends on if they can entice the team trading him to retain some salary. It's doable if they can get a $3 million-$3.5 million defenseman at half that salary-cap charge. The question is, what will they have to throw into the trade to entice the other team to retain salary? Another option is to look at Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez, who wouldn't be a rental because he's signed through next season. I think the first thing Toronto will do is see what it has in Sandin and possibly Liljegren. 

 

Do you reckon the Pittsburgh Penguins are legitimate contenders? Possibly a couple moves away? -- @MrBen551

I reckon they are and what they've done in the wake of all their injuries, including to forwards Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, is remarkable. Mike Sullivan should be the favorite for the Jack Adams Award given to the top coach in the NHL. However, a move or two to bolster their roster could make a significant difference in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I fully expect it to happen because general manager Jim Rutherford never sits idle when he recognizes his team is a contender and could use some help.

I wonder about the Penguins beefing up their bottom six forwards and trying to use would-be/should-be top-six forward Alex Galchenyuk to make it happen. Galchenyuk hasn't fit in a top-six role for the Penguins, but if they can use him to improve their bottom-six depth, that would benefit them in the long run. It would be ideal to get someone whose skill set is a better fit in that role than Galchenyuk's. 

The Penguins may have to look into the rental market for some top-six assistance to replace Guentzel, who is out for the season following shoulder surgery. Crosby is back, and Pittsburgh might look for a forward who has a playing style and skill set that suits being on Crosby's line. I wonder about Mikael Granlund from the Nashville Predators and Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators, each a strong two-way player who plays close to the net and below the goal line when necessary.

Video: TBL@OTT: Pageau blasts one-timer for game-tying PPG

 

With Ray Shero's dismissal, where do the New Jersey Devils go from here? Does it seem like ownership does not want to go into another rebuild, which is where the team was likely headed if they stuck with Shero? -- @keithcaporelli

I think this all leads to Martin Brodeur taking over as Devils president of hockey operations, filling the role that John Davidson has with the New York Rangers, Brendan Shanahan with the Maple Leafs, George McPhee with the Vegas Golden Knights, Cam Neely with the Boston Bruins and Luc Robitaille with the Kings. 

The Devils announced as part of Shero's departure that Brodeur will be switching from business operations to hockey operations. The next step is to take over as president, which allows him to set the agenda and put the Devils on the path to becoming a winning team again. If and when this happens, Brodeur will have a general manager under him like the others mentioned above. That could be Tom Fitzgerald, who is filling in as GM after he was Shero's assistant. Brodeur and the GM will work in tandem, but the Devils don't have to go into another major rebuild. They need to figure out who is going to coach the team, and their goaltending situation. Patience is required with their young players, including center Jack Hughes and highly regarded defenseman prospects Ty Smith and Kevin Bahl. 

But the Devils will be in a good salary cap situation this offseason and have several key pieces already in place, including center Nico Hischier, who I think is on the verge of becoming a star. If it's a rebuild, it'll be a mini-rebuild on top of what they've already been building under Shero. I do wonder if Shero's approach was too patient for the Devils' ownership group, and if that's why they no longer are working together.

 

Among the League's biggest names entering their twilight years at the start of this decade, who do you see with the longest shot at ever raising the Stanley Cup? Best shot? -- @hott_karll

We never say never here. However…

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are running out of time with the San Jose Sharks, who are struggling and may not make the playoffs. The 40-year-old forwards are likely Hockey Hall of Famers but could be at the end of the line. Neither has a contract for next season.

It'll be challenging for Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who should be a lock for the Hall of Fame. Lundqvist turns 38 on March 2 and has one year remaining on his contract. The Rangers, though improving, aren't in the category of legitimate Stanley Cup contender yet. There's no indication of Lundqvist playing beyond the end of his contract and it's unlikely he'll agree to a trade.

Ilya Kovalchuk is helping the Montreal Canadiens with four points (one goal, three assists) in five games since agreeing to terms on a one-year, $700,000 contract Jan. 3. However, the 36-year-old forward isn't going to win the Stanley Cup with them this season, and though Kovalchuk may prove through the second half that he can still play in the NHL, there's no guarantee he'll sign another contract in the offseason.

Jason Spezza has played 1,100 NHL games, but unless the 36-year-old forward wins the Cup this season with the Maple Leafs he may not get another chance. Spezza is playing on a one-year contract.

Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu is in the last season of his contract and turns 37 on March 12. His future is unclear because he can become an unrestricted free agent after this season and the Wild are caught in between, wondering if this offseason will be a good time to start a rebuild or buy more to go all in. 

The list of best shots, in my opinion, features Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski and Bruins forward David Backes. Pavelski, 35, has two seasons left on a three-year contract he signed with the Stars on July 1, 2019. They are a contender. Backes, 35, has the rest of this season and next season remaining on his five-year contract with the Bruins, who got to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final before losing to Backes' former team, the St. Louis Blues.

Video: DET@DAL: Stars salute Pavelski for 1,000 NHL games

 

Which team would you consider a dark horse to make a deep playoff run? -- @theashcity

The Florida Panthers have the necessary ingredients, including goaltending that should be quality, potent scoring from their top six forwards, enough depth scoring, a deep defense, strong power play, experience and coaching. The problem is goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has unsightly numbers for him: a 3.29 goals-against average and .895 save percentage. If he doesn't improve, the Panthers won't make the playoffs. If he can get his game together and they start to defend better in front of him, the Panthers will be dangerous with their high-octane offense and the preparation they'll receive from coach Joel Quenneville, a three-time Stanley Cup champion. 

It's almost exactly the same for the Nashville Predators, minus the Stanley Cup pedigree coaching. John Hynes has coached five postseason games in his NHL career, winning one, but the Predators are better than any team he had when he coached the Devils. If goalies Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros start to play more consistent and the structure the Predators play with in front of them improves, Nashville is going to make the playoffs and could live up to its expectations as a Cup contender. The Predators can score, even with a middling power play (17.0 percent).

 

Will Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin win another Stanley Cup with their current teams, meaning no future trade to what's considered a contender later in their careers like Jarome Iginla or Jaromir Jagr moving to Boston for a chance at the Stanley Cup? -- @mv_28_

The chances of Crosby and Ovechkin winning another championship with their current team are quite good. The chances of them being traded to chase another championship are non-existent. There's no way the Penguins, especially owner Mario Lemieux, will let Crosby finish his NHL career with another team. I'll say the exact same for the Capitals and their owner, Ted Leonsis, regarding Ovechkin. And the difference between them and Iginla is they have already won the Stanley Cup. Iginla never did. Jagr wasn't chasing the Cup. He won it twice with the Penguins in 1991 and 1992. He was chasing the opportunity to continue playing in the NHL.

Video: CAR@WSH: Ovechkin fires home feed for 685th NHL goal

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