Here is the March 10 edition of the mailbag. Each week, an NHL.com writer will answer your questions asked using #OvertheBoards.
Do the Washington Capitals really need another goalie? -- @DrRobThompson
The Capitals need to answer this prior to the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline on April 12. Rookie Vitek Vanecek (11-5-3, 2.88 goals-against average, .904 save percentage) has been remarkable carrying the load after Henrik Lundqvist announced before the season he was unable to play because of a heart condition, and Ilya Samsonov didn't play in an NHL game for more than a month due to NHL COVID-19 protocols. But neither Vanecek, 25, nor Samsonov, 24, has played in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.
Washington is in win-now mode with an older group including forwards Alex Ovechkin, 35, Nicklas Backstrom, 33, T.J. Oshie, 34, and defensemen John Carlson, 31, and Zdeno Chara, who turns 44 on March 18. The St. Louis Blues won the Cup with rookie goalie Jordan Binnington in 2019, but they had veteran Jake Allen as his backup. If the Capitals are unsure about trying to win with two goalies without playoff experience, they'll have to at least look at which veterans are available via trade. That group could include Jonathan Bernier of the Detroit Red Wings and Antti Raanta of the Arizona Coyotes, who each can become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Video: WSH@PIT: Vanecek stones Guentzel with pad save
With general manager Brad Treliving wanting to acquire another right-shot winger, would the Calgary Flames acquire Viktor Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators or a right winger from a Canadian team? -- @SamRitter8
The Flames, like the other teams in the Scotia North Division, have some difficult decisions to make before the deadline because of COVID-19 quarantine rules for those traveling to Canada. Any player acquired from outside the division/country must isolate for two weeks, which would be an obstacle for a team looking for immediate help.
But trading with one of the other six teams in the division will also be difficult because they are competing against each other for the four playoff spots available and don't want to risk helping a rival. Presently, the rebuilding Ottawa Senators (9-18-1) appear to be the lone team from the North that is likely to sell before the deadline. Connor Brown and Austin Watson are right-shot forwards Ottawa might be willing to move, but each has two seasons remaining on his contract after this season.
If the Flames are looking beyond this season, maybe they are better off going outside the division for a player like Arvidsson, who might be available with the Predators (11-14-0) also likely to be sellers. The 27-year-old has three seasons left after this one on his contract, which has an average annual value of $4.25 million. His production has dropped since he scored an NHL career-high 34 goals in 2018-19 (he has scored three goals in 26 games this season), but perhaps he can benefit from a change of scenery.
Gabriel Landeskog is an impending unrestricted free agent. Curious to get someone's take that's not local. Feels like they needed a better #3 to help get over the hump. With market upcoming, what would he command in free agency? -- @RealMatSmith
I've thought highly of Landeskog since the Colorado Avalanche selected him with the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. The 28-year-old forward scored at least 20 goals in seven of his eight full seasons (he scored nine in 36 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season) and has scored 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 21 games this season. With his goal-scoring and leadership abilities, the Avalanche captain would be a valued player for any team if he were to hit the unrestricted free agent market during a normal offseason.
But this isn't expected to be a normal offseason with the NHL salary cap likely to remain fixed at $81.5 million and the continued uncertainty of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. That uncertainty seems to be the main reason Landeskog and the Avalanche haven't agreed to a new contract, because each side has expressed an interest in doing that.
Like some other teams and their potential unrestricted free agents (the Capitals and Ovechkin are another example), the Avalanche and Landeskog are waiting for a clearer picture of the financial landscape to figure out where Landeskog fits into their structure. Without that information, it's impossible to guess what his next contract will look like (he's in the final season of a seven-year contract), but my guess is he will eventually re-sign.
Video: COL@SJS: Landeskog buries backhand PPG for 2-0 lead
Is Kirby Dach going to be playing for the Chicago Blackhawks this season? If so, how much longer until we see him in a game? -- @draznnl
The Blackhawks are going to be cautious with Dach, a forward working his way back from a broken right wrist. But barring a setback, it appears likely he'll play before the end of this season. After Dach was injured in a pretournament game with Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship on Dec. 23 and had surgery six days later, he was expected to be out 4-5 months. So it was a little surprising when the 20-year-old practiced with the Blackhawks on Monday and accompanied them on their six-game road trip that began Tuesday at the Dallas Stars.
Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said Dach "still has a way to go." But with another two months left in the regular season, Dach has time to get back into playing condition. His return could boost the Blackhawks' chances of clinching a playoff berth.
"There's a lot that can happen from A to zed here," Colliton said. "But it's a big positive to get him out there, and we feel encouraged we're going to get him back at some point."
Have this season's regrouped divisions led to a skewed view of teams' strength? Would the Buffalo Sabres have such a bad record if they played fewer games vs. the Boston Bruins the Washington Capitals and more against the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks? -- @dak3
This is an interesting question that we probably won't be able to answer this season because the teams are limited to playing within their divisions. Buffalo's problems probably go beyond playing in the challenging MassMutual East Division, but it hasn't helped. It is the only division that has five teams with a points percentage of at least .600 (New York Islanders, .692; Capitals, .680; Bruins, 652; Philadelphia Flyers, .630; Pittsburgh Penguins, .620), and one of those teams won't qualify for the playoffs.
Although there are no easy games in the NHL, the Sabres haven't had to chance to see how they'd measure up outside the division or get a break from it and, unfortunately, things have snowballed. Maybe Buffalo would have had built more confidence early in the season if it hadn't played Washington four times in its first six games and went 1-2-1. The Sabres are 1-3-1 against the Capitals and 0-6-0 against the Islanders. That's difficult to recover from.