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Rosen's mailbag - July 15, 2015

by Dan Rosen

Here is the July 15 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:

As it sits now, how do you see the Central Division shaking out in the standings? -- @stevenlowry

Tough question because there are still some things to be sorted out with free agency and potential arbitration cases, but I'll give it a whirl (just don't hold me to it three months from now).

1. Minnesota Wild

2. St. Louis Blues

3. Chicago Blackhawks

4. Dallas Stars

5. Nashville Predators

6. Winnipeg Jets

7. Colorado Avalanche

That was actually way harder than I thought it would be. I'm not 100 percent sold on this order at all, but for now I'll leave it that way. I think the Wild are primed for a better start and better season overall. I still like the Blues, even though I don't know if they're any better now than they were last season. The Blackhawks will again have ups and downs in the regular season, but nobody will want to play them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Dallas is a team on the rise, but the 'D' scares me still. Nashville will drop back a bit. The Jets are good, but in this division it'll be hard to get back in the playoffs. Colorado has some nice pieces, but still needs to show me a lot more.

Which division race will be the most interesting/competitive all season? -- @KevinZukerman

Clearly the Central has me stumped, so I definitely think that one is going to be excellent and down to the wire. The Metropolitan is also shaping out to be a tight race, especially with the teams that I perceive as the top five right now: Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets. They're still somewhat thin, but the Carolina Hurricanes look better on paper. The New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers are a step behind the rest, in my opinion.

It will also be interesting in the Pacific Division behind the Anaheim Ducks and in front of the Arizona Coyotes. The San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers were all on my list of the 10 teams that have improved the most. I think the Vancouver Canucks could regress. I don't know what to make of the Los Angeles Kings right now because of their thin blue line.

Do you think Alex Galchenyuk will get a bridge deal or get a Vladimir Tarasenko kind of deal? -- @gelboustany

Bridge deal. He's not at the level of Tarasenko, hasn't done as much as Tarasenko, so he hasn't earned the long-term, lucrative contract just yet. He's a quality player that has the potential to be a star, but the Canadiens have to be sure of him before they max out his term and marry themselves to him for eight years. The St. Louis Blues are sure of Tarasenko, so they felt they could max out his term and give him the big money contract. The Canadiens might very well do that with Galchenyuk in two or three years, but they have to see more first.

Do the Lightning sign Steven Stamkos to an extension? Does he get traded? Or does he go UFA? -- @petepaolillo

Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos
Center - TBL
GOALS: 43 | ASST: 29 | PTS: 72
SOG: 268 | +/-: 2
I'm confident that the Lightning will get Stamkos signed to a long-term, max contract and he will be the captain in Tampa Bay for years to come. Contracts of this magnitude take time to get done. There's a lot of work, a lot of fine details that go into them. I can't imagine a scenario in which the Lightning let him walk into free agency, and I can't even come up with a trade scenario in which the Lightning could get fair value for him. They'll get him signed. He's their priority, as he should be.

With the Red Wings crease about as crowded as a mosh pit at a metal concert, who comes out as the clear cut No. 1? -- @purdstheword22

Love this question. I am of the belief that Petr Mrazek will eventually emerge as the No. 1 for the Red Wings, especially considering his experience with coach Jeff Blashill at the American Hockey League level. Mrazek has the potential to be something really special for the Red Wings. He showed glimpses of what he can be in the playoffs last season.

Of course, that leaves the question about Jimmy Howard, who is signed for four more seasons with a salary-cap charge of $5.29 million, according to war-on-ice.com. If Mrazek is going to be the guy, it's hard to imagine the Red Wings carrying Howard and that cap charge much longer than this season. I think at some point Howard will be traded to a team that needs a goalie. It's possible the Red Wings might have to retain some of the cap charge to make it happen.

Howard is a quality goalie, but I have an inclination that Mrazek is the future in Detroit.

Will the Boston Bruins make the playoffs? -- @Gonyea13

It's so hard to predict these things in July, especially when rosters aren't set yet. What I'll say for now is I'm not sold on the Bruins being any better this season than they were last season, when they missed the playoffs. It'll be next to impossible for them to replace Dougie Hamilton. Matt Irwin is a decent depth signing, but obviously he isn't Hamilton. Jimmy Hayes, Matt Beleskey and Brett Connolly should be able handle the workload that Milan Lucic had, but will any of them be as effective as he was for Boston in his role? I'm not sure, but it's possible.

You also have to take into account the team that the Bruins would knock out, and other teams in the Eastern Conference that improved. I don't see the Bruins knocking out any of the top three from the Atlantic Division (Montreal, Tampa Bay, Detroit), and I think the Ottawa Senators will stay in the race and potentially get back in too. On the other side, I think the Blue Jackets can be a playoff team this season. I don't think the Bruins are better than the Blue Jackets at this point, but so much remains to be seen so it's really too hard of a call to make.

Do you see the Rangers making any significant moves before the season? -- @xsideshowfreakx

The one significant move the Rangers still have to make is getting center Derek Stepan under contract. They might feel the need to make a corresponding move in order to make it happen, so there could be a domino effect coming in New York. I'm not sure what that corresponding move would or could be. It's potentially trading someone off the defense such as Kevin Klein and relying on Brady Skjei or Dylan McIlrath.

Stepan to the Rangers, over/under at $6.5 million per year? -- @Krinsler91

Over. If Ryan O'Reilly got $7.5 million per season on his contract extension, which doesn't start until the 2016-17 season, I expect Stepan to get close to that, if not exactly that considering his numbers are better than O'Reilly's. The question is whether Stepan gets his next contract through negotiation or through arbitration. The latter would not be helpful to the Rangers chances of keeping him around for the long term.

Did Pittsburgh do enough? Will the Coyotes be better? -- @coyotemick25

The Penguins have a lot of eggs in one big basket with Phil Kessel joining Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and taking up $25 million on the cap. They will be a more dynamic team this season with the addition of Kessel, who I think should play with Malkin, but depth to me is still a concern. They've got to fill out a bottom-six that can be respected. Pascal Dupuis has barely played the past two years. Chris Kunitz showed some signs of age last season. David Perron has to find his role and fit in. There are a lot of questions.

The Coyotes can't be much worse than they were, so odds are they'll be slightly better. It won't be enough for them to be closer to a contender, though. This season has to be about the young players getting their feet wet and starting to emerge. If players such as Anthony Duclair, Max Domi and Dylan Strome, provided they make the team, show some promise, I think it will be a sign of a productive season in Arizona.

Now that Patrick Sharp got traded, who will wear the 'A' for the Blackhawks this season? -- @hmaya19

It has to be Brent Seabrook. He's a leader on the team. Many players say he's the emotional leader in the dressing room, whereas Jonathan Toews is the leader by example on the ice. I can't see anyone else getting the 'A' that Sharp wore other than Seabrook. Marian Hossa would be the player who got the third 'A' on the off chance that Duncan Keith or Seabrook were out of the lineup.

Over/under, Chris Stewart, 20 goals with the Anaheim Ducks this season? -- @AaronMurray46

Under. He's a right wing and I don't see him playing on either of Anaheim's top-two lines. It's a good, relatively risk-free signing for the Ducks. It gives Stewart a chance to re-establish himself. If he scores in the teens, it's a win for the Ducks and Stewart.

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