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Rosen's mailbag - Aug. 5, 2015

by Dan Rosen

Here is the Aug. 5 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:

What place do the New York Islanders finish in the Metropolitan Division? Do we win a playoff round? -- @Fio242

The Islanders look like a playoff team on paper. I'd put them in that 3-4-5 range in the Metropolitan Division, behind the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers and in the mix with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. I couldn't tell you if they're going to win a round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs because I don't know who they'll be playing, how healthy they'll be, etc. They should have the ability to win a round or two.

They didn't do much in the offseason except bring in Thomas Greiss as the backup to Jaroslav Halak. They are likely going to rely on Ryan Pulock to be a regular defenseman for them. He has a lot of potential, a great deal of upside. The top of the defense looks good with Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan. My big question is if this defense is deep enough that it can withstand an injury or two. I'm not sure it can.

The offense is strong so they should be able to score goals, as they did last season. I'm very curious to see if Ryan Strome can build on his 50-point season and if Anders Lee, who has a new four-year contract, can build on his 25-goal season.

How will the Detroit Red Wings look with Jeff Blashill on the bench compared to when Mike Babcock was there? Any big changes likely? - @g_derberg

I don't expect any earth-shattering changes in Detroit simply because Blashill is the newest branch on the growing Babcock coaching tree (Todd McLellan, Bill Peters, Paul MacLean), and from what I'm told he has similar philosophies as Babcock about how a team should play. Sure, there will be subtle differences, but it's too early to tell what they will be. I am, however, very curious to see if Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin make the opening night lineup. There might be an opportunity for at least one, if not both of them, because Pavel Datsyuk's rehab from ankle surgery might keep him out of training camp.

With expansion probably happening, what will teams do in the next few years to be ready? -- @whoopoi

First of all, there has never been a guarantee that expansion is happening. We can all assume what we want, but you also know what assuming does, right? It sounds all well and good that expansion could be coming to the NHL, but nothing is official. I'm saying that because to your question, I don't think teams have to or will do anything to be ready for expansion. They have to operate on the here and now. They can't worry about what expansion could possibly do to their rosters. And if expansion happens, teams will decide which players they want to leave open for an expansion draft and which players they want to protect. I guess you could say that leads to evaluation, but teams are always evaluating their players and the potential for expansion does nothing to change that.

What do you think the timing and AAV will be on an Anze Kopitar signing? -- @UJski

The Los Angeles Kings aren't going to want to let this fester for too long, so I wouldn't be shocked if there is some news in training camp about Kopitar signing an extension that should be in the neighborhood of $10 million per season. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane set the bar for this by signing their matching contracts last summer that carry an average annual value of $10.5 million. They signed those as two-time Stanley Cup champions. Kopitar, of course, is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. He and Toews compare quite favorably, so that bodes well for Kopitar. I also think the extra time off because the Kings did not make the playoffs last season will benefit him. I expect him to have a great start to the season. His legs should be fresh. They might not have been last season.

How do you see Brandon Saad adjusting to being "the man" in Columbus? -- @SideLeague

The adjustment should be smooth, because he's buffered by Ryan Johansen, who really is "the man" in Columbus. Johansen and Saad should form one of the NHL's best 1-2 duos. Saad has already had a lot of success and has learned a lot under the guidance of players like Toews and Marian Hossa. He'll take that with him to Columbus and expand on it in what should be an expanded role. He should have a big season.

How was Ottawa able to get Alex Chiasson and Mike Hoffman for so cheap in arbitration? -- @ShackTS

The Ottawa Senators must have had strong proposals with reasonable asks and fair arbitrators issuing the awards, because $1.2 million for Chiasson and $2 million for Hoffman sound right to me. Hoffman has the chance to be something special in the NHL, but he's had one strong season. If he does it again this season, he'll cash in on a bigger contract. He's 25 years old. Chiasson, who is 24, needs to show more of an offensive upside, because with his size and skill he should be able to produce more than the 26 points he had in 76 games last season. He also needs the opportunity, which means more ice time in more offensive roles, but he has to earn that. It's a tough top-six to crack with Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan, Mark Stone, Clarke MacArthur, Mika Zibanejad and Hoffman. Now he gets one more season with a slight raise from the $900,000 he made last season to prove his worth. All of this is good news for the Senators. You want motivated players.

Do you see Jakub Voracek being an MVP finalist this coming season? -- @mac_attack54

I hadn't thought about it until I got this question, but anything is possible. The Philadelphia Flyers forward certainly is coming off a phenomenal season and it earned him a mega contract extension (eight years, $66 million). He should be in line, health and all, for another great season provided he continues to play alongside Claude Giroux. However, I'm not sure about the Hart Trophy for Voracek only because I'm not sure the Flyers are going to be good enough to warrant having a Hart Trophy finalist. But that doesn't take anything away from Voracek, who has finally developed into the player the Blue Jackets thought he could be when they drafted him with the seventh pick in the 2007 NHL Draft.

Do you see the New Jersey Devils making any significant moves before training camp? -- @HockeyMusings

No. I would say at this point, save for a few unrestricted free agents that for some reason remain unsigned (Cody Franson, Christian Ehrhoff) that the Devils will go into training camp with the roster as it is currently situated. It wouldn't make much sense for them to go after a defenseman considering what they already have on defense and the need to allow players like Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill, Eric Gelinas and Damon Severson to further their development at the NHL level. The Devils have gone through a lot of change in this summer of transition, and they need to evaluate what they have before they make any more significant moves.

How much improvement can we expect from the Buffalo Sabres this year? -- @guyphilby

Plenty, partly because they can't really get any worse than they were last season and partly because their roster is vastly improved from what it was last season. I've said it before that I think 40 wins isn't completely out of the question, although it seems like a high number. Thirty-five wins might be more realistic, but remember they had 23 wins last season so it's a massive improvement. They are on their way to being a contender. I highly doubt it happens this season, because even if they win 40 games it won't be enough to get into the playoffs, but the direction and path are obvious and the moves GM Tim Murray made this summer will make them better this season and allow for even further growth in the coming seasons.

What rookie do you think will have the biggest impact this season? -- @RoccoJ95

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers. Book it. Nobody can or should debate me on this.


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