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Rosen's mailbag - Aug. 19, 2015

by Dan Rosen

Here is the Aug. 19 edition of Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run periodically throughout the summer. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

You mentioned that you think five Metropolitan Division teams are going to make the playoffs, but who do you think are the top three? -- @luctm475

The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers are my top two, in that order as of right now. My third, if you have been following our 30-in-30 series, is obviously between the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets.

At this point I'd have to put the Penguins at No. 3 because of their high-end personnel up front, the likely return of Olli Maatta and Kris Letang on the back end, Marc-Andre Fleury in net and their overall experience.

I called the Penguins top-heavy in the video we did on them. I might have been selling their depth a little short. The additions of Eric Fehr and Matt Cullen, plus getting Nick Bonino for Brandon Sutter, gives the Penguins enviable center depth when you obviously also include Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Considering potentially two of Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and David Perron could be in the bottom six, I'd have to say the Penguins' depth is solid. Sergei Plotnikov is a wild card. If he can be a top-six forward, likely on Malkin's line, it will be huge for the Penguins' depth.

I still have two questions: Will Kunitz rebound from a subpar season by his standards, or is he on the decline? Is Dupuis going to be able to be the same effective player in his return from blood clots now that he is 36 years old and has played 55 games in the past two seasons, none since Nov. 15, 2014?

If Kunitz rebounds and Dupuis is effective, the Penguins might be able to leap either the Capitals or Rangers.

Now that the Rangers have signed Jarret Stoll, have we seen the end of Tanner Glass? Why has the media not questioned him being in the lineup? -- @BFerryNYR

Stoll's signing won't push Glass out of the lineup, but a strong training camp from Viktor Stalberg could. Stoll's signing might push Kevin Hayes to right wing, but he would be taking over the spot vacated by Martin St. Louis, who retired. Carl Hagelin's spot in the lineup will likely be taken up by Emerson Etem, which is why the Rangers made that trade, Etem for Hagelin, including draft picks. Glass is still the fourth-line left wing until someone knocks him out of that spot. The only someone who can do it, in my opinion, is Stalberg.

As for the media's take on Glass, there are times when his spot in the lineup has been questioned and other times when he has been praised. For example, Glass was a solid player for the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, passing the so-called eye test. He was effective in his role; not great, but effective. Yet there were times in the regular season when it looked like Glass was staying in the lineup simply because he could fight, which is an old-school way of thinking and not totally necessary in today's NHL. The Rangers have other players who serve as deterrents, because in the League today you're a deterrent if you have the puck, not if you can drop the gloves.

You've said you see five playoff teams from the Metro, three from the Atlantic. If it were to be four and four, who's out and who's in? -- @cnjs5kpj

Well I don't think it will be four and four, but I'll play along with your question.

Out: Islanders

I like the Blue Jackets too much, particularly with Brandon Saad playing on the same line as Ryan Johansen and with Sergei Bobrovsky in goal. They would have been a playoff team last season if not for the injuries. Their defense is still lacking, but the Islanders aren't deep at that position either.

In: Ottawa Senators

A lot depends on if Andrew Hammond and Craig Anderson hold up in net, and if Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman each can have a repeat performance from his rookie season, but the Senators played an exciting and strong brand of hockey under Dave Cameron and should be able to compete for a playoff spot. Kyle Turris is showing that he can be a No. 1 center. Mika Zibanejad needs to continue to prove he can be a No. 2 center. They have an excellent top pair on defense in Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot, whose importance to the Senators is underrated, at least in my opinion. When he returned last season from his injury, Karlsson's play improved and Ottawa started to win.

What are the Philadelphia Flyers' chances at the playoffs? Also do we see any of the 'D' prospects make the team?

I'd say their chances this season are slim because I don't think they're better than any of the top five teams in the Metropolitan Division that I already mentioned. Their D is still lacking, even with prospects such as Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim and Shayne Gostisbehere getting closer. If one or two of them makes the lineup, it'll still be a development season for them. It'll also be an interesting and potentially difficult transition for coach Dave Hakstol, who has coached NHL players in an NHL system at the University of North Dakota but has never coached in the NHL before.

As for the prospects, Morin probably has the best chance, but even he likely will start in the American Hockey League. The Flyers defense isn't all that strong, but they have a lot of NHL defensemen already, so cracking the lineup will be difficult. The signing of 32-year-old Russian defenseman Yevgeni Medvedev makes it even tougher.

Why do teams sign old veteran help (on the cheap, say Matt Cullen) when they have kids in the farm able to step up? -- @whoopoi

Because they're not sure that the young players they have in their system are ready to step up and they want to know what they're getting in a player if they're going to put him in a certain role, even if it's a small role.

To use your example, the Penguins know exactly what they're getting in Matt Cullen. He can skate, contribute offensively and win a lot of faceoffs, but he's declining and he probably won't play every game, nor will he play significant minutes. They still know what he'll offer to them, and that's more than they could say for a rookie such as Oskar Sundqvist, who is a top prospect but may not be ready or suited for the role that Cullen will play. Cullen also came cheap, only $800,000 for one season, so it gives the Penguins more time to evaluate a player like Sundqvist without putting added pressure on him to perform at the NHL level. If there comes a time later in the season when it looks like Cullen is rapidly declining, the Penguins might be high enough on Sundqvist to bring him up, in which case the cost of either waiving Cullen or having him on the NHL roster as a healthy scratch won't be significant.

The Winnipeg Jets won't keep both Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien. I personally think they should keep Ladd. Your opinion? -- @ZornJim

I actually had this conversation on the Hustler and Lawless radio show on TSN 1290 in Winnipeg on Monday. If they can't keep both, which seems like it would be cost prohibitive, I agree with you that Ladd is the player they should keep. He's the captain, the leader, and he could again be their top scorer, as he was last season with 62 points in 81 games. I actually have a hunch (only a hunch) that Ladd will sign an extension before the season.

Byfuglien is a valuable player because of his size, skill and ability to play multiple positions, but if keeping him is going to cost the Jets too much against the cap (it will), they should put their resources toward Ladd, who is just as valuable, albeit for different reasons. Jacob Trouba can be the Jets' No. 1 defenseman with Tyler Myers at No. 2.

Remember, Trouba and Mark Scheifele will need contracts after this season too, so what the Jets do with Ladd and Byfuglien has the potential to impact those contracts too. That's another reason why I agree with you in that keeping both won't happen.

I wonder, though, how this debate and what happens with these players will impact the Jets this season. If they're in the playoff race come late February/early March but one or both players remain unsigned for the 2016-17 season, do they risk going forward to try to get into the playoffs at the expense of potentially losing one or both for nothing in the offseason? It's going to be a very interesting story to watch develop in Winnipeg.

Will Alexander Semin find a way to rebound and get a nice contract next year, be it with the Montreal Canadiens or anywhere else? -- @gelboustany

Your guess is as good as mine with Semin, but he has played well when he's had a one-year contract, which he has now.

He played under a one-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2012-13 and had 44 points in 44 games. He then signed a five-year contract and hasn't been the same player. The Hurricanes bought out that contract this summer, making him a free agent so he could sign with Montreal.

Semin played under a one-year contract in each of his final two seasons in Washington, and although he was never a 40-goal scorer again, like he was in 2009-10, he at least had 20-plus goals and 54 points in each of those two seasons. If he scores 20-plus goals and has 50-plus points with the Canadiens, odds are he'll get another multiyear contract.

Who do you see having a great year for the Minnesota Wild? -- @TravKnops

Everyone. Can I say everyone? I really like how the Wild look, at least on paper. They're my pick to win the Central Division. But everyone won't have a great season, so I'll pick two guys that I think could have breakout seasons: forward Jason Zucker and defenseman Matt Dumba.

Zucker, 23, had 21 goals in 51 games last season. It's fair to say he would have, or at least could have, been a 30-goal scorer if he didn't miss two months, from Feb. 10 to April 6, with a broken right clavicle. He has had problems staying healthy, but if he does, he could have a big season for the Wild.

Dumba, 21, came on late last season, showing his offensive upside. He had eight goals in 58 games and two more in 10 playoff games. He added an offensive flair that the Wild needed from their defense. He can skate, move the puck, join the play and feel comfortable doing it all. He played on the third pair for most of his 58 games last season, but he might get a promotion this season, which would be no small thing considering the depth the Wild have on defense.


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