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Rosen's mailbag - Jan. 6, 2016

by Dan Rosen

Here is the Jan. 6 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:

What do you think drove Jonathan Drouin away from the Tampa Bay Lightning? Lack of opportunity? -- @trevorknapp16

At this point, what drove him away from Tampa was the fact that he has been in and out of the lineup because of injuries and he still needs time to develop. That's why he's in Syracuse of the American Hockey League. It's the best developmental league in the world.

I wrote about the whole situation here.

But yes, the trade request came from lack of opportunity, or the perception that he isn't getting a fair shake. He hasn't done enough to earn consistent opportunities in Tampa. Part of that is because of injuries. Part of that is his own fault. Part of that is because the other players around him have performed better.

The fact is that Drouin has played a lot of minutes with Steven Stamkos and he's been a regular on the power play. He has two goals this season. Two in 19 games. He has 19 shots on goal in 19 games. That's not enough.

The whole situation is bothersome because you want to see a player who is 20 years old earn his way in the NHL, regardless of where he was drafted and the hype that accompanied him into the League. That's all forgotten the moment he signs his first pro contract. He has to earn it. Drouin is still in the process of doing that. It happens slower for some than it does for others for a variety of reasons.

I think he can be an excellent player in the NHL. He has all the tools to do it. But he has to earn it, and going to the AHL is part of it.

A trade request makes no sense. In my opinion, all it does is put Drouin in a bad light. The best thing he can do now is be a pro, go play well in Syracuse, earn his way back up to Tampa, and play well once there to earn more ice time.

Where do you see Drouin going? Will this affect signing Steven Stamkos? -- @k_corpstein

I'm not sold that the Lightning are going to trade Drouin despite the request. I can very easily see the scenario playing out with him doing what he's supposed to do in Syracuse, returning to Tampa, getting in the lineup, playing well, moving up, and playing the minutes he feels he deserves. If that happens and the Lightning win, fences get mended pretty quickly. That might be the optimistic point of view, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

As for where he could go if he's traded, it's just impossible to predict that now. I think any general manager interested in acquiring him, and there should be 29 of them, should want to see how he does in Syracuse, how he handles the demotion, how he performs, before getting serious in trade talks. This can be seen as a character test for Drouin. Let's see how he handles it.

In no way does this affect Stamkos and his future with the Lightning. They are two totally different scenarios. Stamkos has rights coming his way and plenty of leverage; Drouin has none of that. The Lightning don't want to lose either of these players, but they have to treat these as separate situations, because they are. One is a contract negotiation, the other is about fit.

Should I actually care about John Scott being an All-Star? -- @MikeH1123

That's up to you, Mike. I think you should, because as nuts as the whole story is and as ridiculous as it is that John Scott is an All-Star, it has a chance of being a feel-good story at All-Star Weekend in Nashville later this month.

I think people tend to ignore the fact that when this whole campaign or push to get Scott voted in as a captain started, it really was offensive to Scott. The idea was to get him in the game so everyone could watch him fall down and struggle to play 3-on-3. That's offensive. That's just not cool. Scott has grinded and carved his way to an NHL career and he deserves credit for that. He doesn't deserve to be made fun of because he's not an elite skater.

That said, Scott could have gone one of two ways with this. He could have been offended and acted that way, or he could have taken the positives out of this and made the best of it. He chose the latter. He chose wisely. And he'll benefit from it by having a great weekend for him and his family in Nashville, by being feted like a star, by walking a red carpet, getting some free stuff and maybe some money too. His family can enjoy the weekend with him. And he can forever call himself an NHL all-star. Nothing wrong with that, even if he got there because of a fan vote.

Wouldn't it be great if Anze Kopitar sets up Scott for a goal in the All-Star Game? Wouldn't it be great if Scott scores in a breakaway challenge during the Skills Competition? I think it would make for a fun, light-hearted story, perfect for All-Star Weekend.

Scott is a world-class person off the ice who plays a role on the ice that has allowed him to stay in the NHL. You'll be impressed if you pay attention to him at All-Star Weekend, but it's up to you if you want to do that. My suggestion is you should, but I'm biased.

With the Ottawa Senators out of the playoff picture for now, do you think Erik Karlsson can still be a favorite to win his third Norris Trophy? -- @dayvis_ferreras

Slow down a bit here. I understand the Senators have their shortcomings (possession problems leading to inconsistency, defense), but they are in a virtual tie for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and only one point out of the first wild card. So, it's premature to say they're "out of the playoff picture for now." They're very much in the playoff picture. I think they will be all season.

With that in mind, Karlsson will be in the hunt for his third Norris Trophy all season. There are some people in the game who feel he didn't deserve the first two because he's not among the best defensive defensemen. I disagree with that. I think the best defensemen in the NHL are the ones that get the puck and go play offense. That's the whole idea of the game. If a defenseman is always showcasing his skills in the defensive zone, to me that suggests he's always playing defense, which means he's doing only half of his job. Karlsson does his job by getting the puck and making plays to generate goals.

What are some of your predictions that will happen after the All-Star break? -- @whoopoi

I'll give you 10:

1. Stamkos will be traded.

2. The Pittsburgh Penguins will emerge as a contender in the Metropolitan Division.

3. Eric Staal will be traded.

4. Keith Yandle will be traded.

5. Drouin will not be traded.

6. The Montreal Canadiens will re-establish themselves as the best team in the Atlantic Division.

7. Sidney Crosby will be better than a point-per-game player in the second half.

8. Connor McDavid will get himself back into the Calder Trophy race.

9. The Edmonton Oilers will become a playoff contender.

10. The Toronto Maple Leafs will finish with at least 85 points.

If you could make any single change to fix the Nashville Predators, what would it be? -- @SMedsker

I'd add a No. 1 center, but that doesn't make me any different from general manager David Poile, who knows very well his team needs a No. 1 center.

The question is how, which leads to another question: Would Poile be willing to try to trade Shea Weber? It's very unlikely at this point, but what if he can acquire Ryan Johansen and Kerby Rychel from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hmmm, he'd have to think about that, right?

The Predators need a No. 1 center in the worst way. Johansen might need out of Columbus in the worst way. He's getting a lot of tough love from coach John Tortorella. Some of it might be warranted, but it's hard to say it's all warranted. As for Rychel, the No. 19 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, he has already requested a trade, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

What if Poile can acquire Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from the Edmonton Oilers? Again, a thinker.

I know, I know, trading Weber seems idiotic and insane, the same as it would be to trade Roman Josi or Seth Jones. Those are good reasons why Poile has said he won't do it, for any of them. It's hard to argue with him. It does seem nuts to trade Weber, Josi or Jones, but the Predators might have to rob from their elite defense unit to upgrade at forward.

Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis are nice pieces, but I find it hard to believe they're going to land the Predators a No. 1 center.

What do you see the Oilers doing with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Isn't $6 million a big price tag for a third-line center? -- @NickMacK9

Perfect segue.

I do think the Oilers will eventually trade Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle, but I see it happening around the draft, not during the season. You can never have enough depth at center, but with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl still on his entry-level contract (McDavid through 2017-18, Draisaitl through next season), moving Nugent-Hopkins would clear space under the salary cap to sign or acquire a top defenseman such as Dustin Byfuglien.

There are a number of teams that would be interested in Nugent-Hopkins as a No. 1 or No. 2 center. The Predators are obviously one of them. The New Jersey Devils should be in the market for a player like him. So should the Carolina Hurricanes. The Lightning should be if they lose Stamkos. Put Ottawa and the Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames (that won't happen), Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, and New York Rangers on the list too.

There will be a good market for him.

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