In what year do you believe the Islanders will be a serious playoff contender? -- @samfeygin
Why not this season? No, I'm serious. Why not this season? OK, I'm not sold on the Islanders being a serious playoff contender this season either (I assume you're not by your question, Sam). However, I do think the Islanders are heading in the right direction, finally, and I do expect them to be better than they were last season. I think it would be a disappointment if the Islanders are not at least in the playoff hunt come late March and early April this season. They may not be able to get in, but they should be in the hunt. They have the goaltending and the high-end scoring to be in the mix in the Eastern Conference.
The Islanders, though, still need to bide their time for Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Calvin de Haan and Griffin Reinhart to develop before I can say for sure they're going to be a serious threat. Coming behind them are Michael Dal Colle and Sebastian Collberg. You can't build through the draft and not have your top draft picks work out. It's wait-and-see still, but this is a big year for Strome, Nelson, de Haan and Reinhart, and really for the Islanders at large.
Which defenseman do you see the Bruins trading away? -- @ZigFracassi
Johnny Boychuk. It has to be him. He's entering the final year of his contract, so he's the most tradable, and the team that gets him will be getting a solid top-four, right-handed defenseman with a booming shot from the point. I wonder if Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli would trade with an Atlantic Division rival, because the Detroit Red Wings could use Boychuk.
If he does trade Boychuk, Chiarelli likely won't bring back a NHL player because the idea is to clear salary-cap room to sign restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith. Boychuk's contract carries a salary-cap charge of approximately $3.3667 million, according to CapGeek.com. The Bruins might have enough space to sign Smith and Krug if they clear Boychuk's contract and put center Marc Savard on long-term injured reserve, which will happen.
Chiarelli could trade Adam McQuaid, but it wouldn't clear the cap space the Bruins need to sign Smith and Krug. McQuaid's contract carries a $1.5667 million cap charge.
What team or teams do you see making the playoffs in 2015 that didn't get in in 2014? -- @kbock73
I have picked the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks to get in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, replacing the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks from last season.
I'm obviously very far out on a limb with the Sharks. I might be on my own island. But you asked who would get in, not who would be knocked out, so I don't feel the need to defend myself here.
The big question for the Canucks is whether Nick Bonino can be a productive No. 2 center? If the answer is yes, and Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin return to form, the Canucks have a great chance to get back in the playoffs with their depth and goaltending (Ryan Miller).
The big question for the Devils is will they score enough? I think they will because I think Mike Cammalleri is the type of scorer they didn't have last season. Jaromir Jagr had to carry the Devils offense for stretches of time. It's too much to ask him to do it again, though I wouldn't be surprised. Cammalleri can do it. And it's hard to imagine the Devils going winless in the shootout again.
What do you think has become of Marc-Andre Fleury? Some subtle hints of not re-signing him. -- @driscnutz8
Fleury has to prove he can be a playoff performer again before the Pittsburgh Penguins give him another contract. It's just that simple. He's long been one of the top regular-season goalies, but his playoff performances have left a lot to be desired. Why would Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford invest big money on a long-term contract for a goalie he isn't sure he can trust? The Penguins are right to let Fleury play out the final year of his contract to see what happens. It will be interesting to see if they balk and give him a new contract after Jan. 1. I think the right play here is to wait and see. They know what they have in the regular season. They need to see more in the playoffs.
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