Here is the Oct. 7 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:
Your thoughts on the undecided goalie tandems, e.g. St. Louis, Calgary, Dallas … any others? -- @PhilippMaurer
I've always been in favor of identifying a No. 1 goalie at the start of the season. It settles down the rest of the team and assures that everyone on the team, most notably the goalies, understands and knows his role. That being said, I can see some merit to coaches entering the season with the competition for the top spot ongoing, provided they give each goalie a heads-up, as in at least two or three days' notice, of when he will be starting. Competition can be good, but at some point early in the season it benefits everybody to identify a No. 1.
The Blues' Jake Allen and Brian Elliott shouldn't have any problems adjusting to the situation because they did it last season. Allen is the future in St. Louis. I'm a believer that his future is now. He proved himself as an NHL goalie last season when he had 22 wins, a .913 save percentage and 2.28 goals-against average in 37 appearances. He has experience and needs to bump up his save percentage a bit (.920 or higher would be ideal).
The situation in Dallas is passable for now, but it won't be if it is still unresolved at the midway point of the season. The hope has to be that Antti Niemi runs away from Kari Lehtonen as the No. 1. I'm looking for that to happen by Christmas. Niemi has a better pedigree and has played better in big games in his career. Lehtonen is too inconsistent for me to think of him as a No. 1 goalie on a playoff team. I think Dallas is a playoff team. It will be with Niemi.
The situation in Calgary is barely passable for now. No team wants three goalies on one-way contracts, especially when none of them is named Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist or Braden Holtby (the three best goalies in the NHL right now, in my opinion). Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio will compete with each other and maybe that will help drive one of them to the top of the list, but this is a flawed system and the Flames need to iron it out quickly because it's not the only concern they have (read: possession).
I'd also suggest that the Carolina Hurricanes (Cam Ward, Eddie Lack), Detroit Red Wings (Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek), Ottawa Senators (Andrew Hammond, Craig Anderson), Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer) and Winnipeg Jets (Ondrej Pavelec, Michael Hutchinson) have goalie situations that are far from resolved.
Again, it's never ideal to have this, but it's the reality teams are faced with. I'm most interested in watching the situations in Detroit, Dallas and Calgary. Those are three playoff teams with very interesting goaltending situations. At least the Blues know what they have and what they're getting into.
Any surprise send downs, send back to the minors, waivers that you think teams have done? -- @whoopoi
I'm not alone in being surprised the Philadelphia Flyers put defenseman Andrew MacDonald on waivers Monday and sent him to the American Hockey League on Tuesday. All you had to do was follow other hockey media on Twitter on Monday to get the gist of it. I get the Flyers' thinking. I really do. I understand that MacDonald has not been great and that going with a younger player like Scott Laughton could be better for their future. It's just a bit stunning to me that a team will willingly keep $4.05 million on their salary cap for a player who won't be playing for them. That's a lot of dead money, but again, I do understand it from a hockey perspective.
Marko Dano getting sent down by the Chicago Blackhawks was somewhat surprising. Dano doesn't make a lot ($925,000, according to war-on-ice.com) and he was by all accounts having a solid training camp. He was playing on the Blackhawks' top line for a while. But Dano is only 20 years old, so getting some playing time in Rockford of the AHL can't hurt. It also goes to show you that it's not easy to make the final roster of the defending Stanley Cup champions.
I had defenseman Mirco Mueller pegged into the Sharks' top-six for the start of this season, so I was mildly surprised he was sent down to the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL. Mueller played 39 games last season and averaged 16:37 of ice time. He should be on the upswing, but he's also only 20 years old and he was ineligible to play in the AHL last season. Some extra development time can't hurt.
Two more moves that caught my eye but didn't necessarily surprise me were Edmonton sending center Leon Draisaitl to Bakersfield of the AHL and Minnesota sending defenseman Mike Reilly to Iowa of the AHL. Each is a smart decision.
Draisaitl needs to play a lot. He needs to play as a first-line center. He needs to continue to develop. He'd be a third-line center at best in Edmonton, and that's a different and unfamiliar role for him. Reilly is fresh out of college so it's smart to work him in slowly. The Wild are deep on defense too.
How does a suspended player's contract affect the salary cap? Is a team penalized for signing a guy like Raffi Torres? -- @hanesup
Torres' salary cap ($2 million according to war-on-ice.com) will stay on the Sharks' books for the duration of his 41-game suspension. There is no way for the Sharks to get cap relief. Teams do not get cap relief for players suspended for on-ice infractions. However, the Sharks can apply to the NHL for Torres to be granted non-roster status, in which case they would at least be able to field a 23-man roster. Teams can apply to the NHL for roster relief in cases of suspensions in excess of 45 days. Torres is eligible to return on Jan. 14, 2016.
Do you believe there is any truth to the Penguins' maybe trading for Dustin Byfuglien? Who would be involved in the trade? -- @AJHans19
The need exists and therefore the potential exists for this to happen, but it won't be soon. If the Jets do seriously start listening to offers for Byfuglien, there will be plenty of interested teams. I don't anticipate that to happen before the All-Star break because the Jets need to see where the team stands and where they stand in potential contract negotiations with Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd. Remember, Ladd's status could affect Byfuglien's status because if the Jets feel getting Ladd signed will be too difficult they might turn their efforts to putting the full-court press on Byfuglien. There's no slam dunk here, but I expect the Penguins to be involved if Byfuglien is on the block. It's too soon to tell who would be involved in the trade, but I would bank on forwards David Perron and Beau Bennett being floated in trade talks, especially if rookie forward Daniel Sprong proves he's the real deal.
What is your take on the situation with Chicago's third and fourth lines? Does it really affect their chances this year? -- @jchristian94
The Blackhawks' third and fourth lines looked like this in practice Tuesday:
Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Kyle Baun
Andrew Desjardins - Marcus Kruger - Ryan Garbutt
I like the fourth line better than I like the third line because Bickell and Baun are wild cards. It can be a productive third line if Bickell plays like the player who earned the four-year, $16 million contract he got after winning the Cup in 2013, and if Baun plays like the guy who battled hard in training camp and won a job. However, there are moving parts here because I don't think Dano is long for the AHL, and it's still not clear if Artemi Panarin, currently on Chicago's second line, is going to be able to handle that responsibility. Baun or Bickell could be out eventually.
The fourth line looks solid across the board. It's responsible and defensive, but those are three guys who will hound the puck, get it back and get off the ice so Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Teuvo Teravainen, Artem Anisimov and Panarin can get on in offensive situations. If that fourth line stays the same all season, it could be one of the top fourth lines in the NHL. I think Chicago fans are really going to like Garbutt and his feisty, in-your-face game.
As for how it affects Chicago's chances, it's too early to start looking at how third and fourth lines affect any team's chances. There are, as I mentioned above, a lot of moving parts. Remember, it took a while for the Blackhawks to get the lineup they wanted playing at the optimal level last season. It didn't happen immediately after they acquired Antoine Vermette and Desjardins. These things take some time, but for now I like that fourth line and I have questioned about the third line.
What's your take on the Blues staring the year with three rookies (Robby Fabbri, Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson)? -- @Allen_Schneider
I like that the Blues are going with some younger players. The team is filled with veteran players who have underachieved together. A shakeup was needed. That's why T.J. Oshie and Barret Jackman aren't in St. Louis anymore. That's also you're seeing some of the youth movement going on too.
Keeping Fabbri doesn't surprise me because the Blues can take nine games to look at him before deciding if they want to send him back to the Ontario Hockey League or keep him and start the clock on his three-year entry-level contract. Plenty of teams go this route. Fabbri is 19 years old and fast. He can score. He'll play in the Blues' top-six forward group to start the season. St. Louis can only benefit from having him. Fabbri can only benefit from the experience. If it looks like he needs more development time, the Blues can give it to him.
I thought Ty Rattie's time would be now, but he was overshadowed by Fabbri and caught in a numbers game.
The two defensemen, Parayko and Edmundson, came out of nowhere to surprise everyone in St. Louis. Coach Ken Hitchcock said during training camp that they just keep getting better. It means that Petteri Lindbohm, who a lot of people figured would be in the top-six defense group because Jackman is now in Nashville, is going to start the season in the AHL. That's surprising, but it speaks to the development of Parayko and Edmundson, and the surge they had in training camp. I haven't seen nearly enough of these two, but I've read a lot about them and it seems that even they were surprised. What it means, however, is still to be determined.
I anticipate only one of them will play in the opener Thursday against Edmonton. Provided the Blues' top-five D stay healthy, it will be a competition between the two of them for the sixth spot for a while at the start of the season. Lindbohm is certainly a relevant option in the AHL.