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Rosen's mailbag - Dec. 16, 2015

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

Here is the Dec. 16 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday in the Over the Boards blog during the 2015-16 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

Chances the Pittsburgh Penguins trade Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby in the offseason if things don't improve? -- @apoirier717

Ah, the nuclear option. Didn't hesitate to go there, did you? It would obviously be a huge story if they do trade one of them, but if things don't change I think everything will be on the table in Pittsburgh. How could it not be? I also don't think Jim Rutherford will be the one making the decision if it comes to that. Long ways away, though. Let's see what Mike Sullivan can do with this team. There were promising signs Monday, albeit in a 4-1 loss.

What do you make of the Rob Scuderi trade on Chicago's end? Will he fit their system, or is another move in store? -- @k_corpstein

The approximately $1.1 million in cap relief the Blackhawks got in this trade by making it so the Pittsburgh Penguins retained one-third of Scuderi's salary-cap charge is the only reason I think this got done. Scuderi for Trevor Daley on the surface doesn't make a great deal of sense regardless if Daley was not a fit in Chicago. Scuderi is on the wrong side of a solid, respectable NHL career, but he doesn't seem to have too much left in the tank. He might be able to play some penalty-kill minutes for the Blackhawks and be a 6/7 defenseman, but what he offers is clearly inferior to what Daley offers. That said, the Blackhawks also got some much-needed cap space with the trade, so I do think a corresponding move is coming. It also wouldn't shock me if at some point they waived Scuderi with the purpose of sending him to the American Hockey League, thus reducing his cap hit so they could save another $925,000. They would be able to do according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Is there even the slightest chance the Islanders make a run at Steven Stamkos? -- @SchreiberZ16

If you want to cling to hope, by all means do so. Who am I to tell you not to cling to hope? If you want to live in reality, I'd be more shocked if Stamkos wound up with the Islanders than I would be if Henrik Lundqvist wound up with the Islanders. Get my point? Hey, everyone can dream, and this is a big one, but the Islanders don't have the financial wherewithal to pay Stamkos what he's going to want in free agency, nor do they have enough pieces they should be willing to part with at the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline. If the Lightning try to trade him, they're going to back a truck up into the building to load in their haul. If there's no hope at keeping Stamkos, I wouldn't risk setting my organization back years to acquire him in a trade before the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline.

Is there something wrong with Tampa's organization? Have to wonder why Martin St. Louis and now Stamkos looked to bail on them? -- @owen_starlin

Not as far as I can tell, but also remember that these are two completely different scenarios. St. Louis asked to be traded because of family matters and a disagreement with general manager Steve Yzerman that made him uneasy about his working conditions. Stamkos is a potential unrestricted free agent who has earned the right to control his own destiny and go for as much money as he can possibly make. I don't think anybody should begrudge him for that. It's his right.

There is, however, an underlying issue with Stamkos and coach Jon Cooper. Clearly there is some level of distrust between the two, possibly stemming more from Stamkos' side than Cooper's. I'm sure you've seen the stories about his playing time in the playoffs last season and his move to right wing. Cooper does these things because he thinks it's in the best interest of the team. I do think a coach should cater to his stars on occasion, but not if he thinks it's not in the best interest of the team. The discord there might be the tie that breaks Stamkos away from the Lightning, but I'm still not sold that is happening. I still believe he is going to re-sign, though my belief, strong at the start of the season, is waning.

Will Brady Skjei stick when Dan Girardi is back? -- @sec308

No. In addition to Girardi, who missed the game Tuesday, the Rangers are also waiting for the return of Kevin Klein. He's missed seven straight games with an oblique injury, but he's skating, albeit in a yellow non-contact jersey.

The Rangers can't stray from the plan they have with Skjei, which is to get him a full season in the American Hockey League before they consider putting him in their top-six. It works perfectly with Keith Yandle's contract up at the end of the season. I'd be shocked if Yandle, a lefty, re-signs, because Skjei, also a lefty, is waiting to take his place and will come at a much cheaper price. The Rangers are also seeing a decent game from Dylan McIlrath. If that continues, albeit in a somewhat sheltered role, they'll be more inclined to think of him as a top-six defenseman. He'd take the place of Dan Boyle. If it works out as planned, the Rangers will have Ryan McDonagh, Girardi, Marc Staal, Klein, Skjei and McIlrath as their top-six defense group next season. I'm sure at this point they'd love to trade Girardi, but I don't see how that gets done because of his hefty contract and his poor play of late.

Are the Dallas Stars ready to be a legit Stanley Cup contender or will they have an early exit in the playoffs? Can they keep it up? -- @DrClew92

I think they're ready. I think they're legit. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are for real. Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya know nothing but winning. Jason Spezza has been close. Valeri Nichushkin is coming on. The goaltending is still the question mark, especially because it's asking a lot of the Stars to win by scoring four goals a game in the playoffs, when offense typically dries up a bit. But I think they're legit and they're ready. I also think they need the next 51 games to shore up a lot of their game. Don't be shocked if they make a trade to help that process along.

Will Calgary's defense step up? Exciting young offense, but Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton have been disappointing? -- @zeisenberg27

Agree. Giordano, Hamilton and, frankly, the entire defense corps has underachieved. It looks worse because their goaltending has been so bad. Giordano and Hamilton have actually been among the best of the defensemen, which is saying a lot. But you saw the defense step up Tuesday night to give the Flames their sixth consecutive win. They have 14 wins; half have come in overtime. The win Tuesday was big because Calgary got it in a low-scoring game. The Flames haven't been in a lot of low-scoring games this season. I'm not sure if they can keep it up, though, because the problems are as systematic as they are positional with the goaltenders. It goes back to last season, when they won despite their defensive shortcomings. The offense they got from the defense masked the issues they have on defense.

The Nashville Predators are one of the best possession teams, but can they succeed without making a big splash for a 1C? -- @GreekGoalie35

Nope. Teams don't win in the playoffs if they're lacking depth up the middle. Nashville needs a No. 1 center badly. It has for a while. General manager David Poile is still scouring for one. Getting a No. 1 center, even for rental purposes (Eric Staal? Steven Stamkos?) would do wonders for Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher. It would put those two guys in the positions they should be in and give the Predators the depth down the middle that is typically required to be a championship team. They'll scuffle along without it.

Better chance of making the playoffs, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks? -- @zackwcole

Oilers.

Look, it could go sideways in a hurry in Edmonton, but with the players they have coming back in their lineup, the steady-hand coaching of Todd McLellan, and GM Peter Chiarelli's proven ability to pull off a trade, I actually like their chances. McDavid is expected back around the All-Star break. Nail Yakupov will likely be back not long after Christmas. Benoit Pouliot and Oscar Klefbom could be back before Christmas. Jordan Eberle is playing well. Taylor Hall has been dominant. Leon Draisaitl is proving he's the real deal. The goaltending needs to hold up, but the Oilers can actually do this, which is amazing.

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