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Here is the Aug. 10 edition of the mailbag, where we answer your questions asked on Twitter using #OvertheBoards. Tweet your questions to @drosennhl.
If you were given the keys to an expansion team, where would it be and how would you build the team? Flashy like Vegas? Slow and methodical build like Seattle? Or somewhere in between? — @Rob_Oswald
The NHL isn’t adding a 33rd franchise in the near future. But my initial thought for the location of my fictitious team:
It’s a good sports market with the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball all thriving there. It has been an NHL town before with the Cleveland Barons (1976-78). It is an American Hockey League town now with the Cleveland Monsters, the affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. There is a ready-made arena there, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, which is the home of the Monsters. Its main tenant is the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA. An NHL team in Cleveland would become instant geographical rivals with the Blue Jackets. The Battle of Ohio could be a lot of fun.
I would build the team more in line with how the Seattle Kraken are being built. That’s not to disrespect the Vegas Golden Knights. How could I? They’ve been a success. But they were not expected to become an instant on-ice success. Their success in their inaugural season (2017-18), going to the Stanley Cup Final and losing against the Washington Capitals, has made them one of the most recognizable teams in the League but also has put them on a fast-track chase for the Stanley Cup that has left them in a difficult salary-cap situation. In two straight offseasons, they traded goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and forward Max Pacioretty for “future considerations,” which equates to moving them for a zero return just to clear salary cap space. The Golden Knights are not closer to being a Stanley Cup champion today than they were last season, when they did not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I think they can get into the playoffs this season if a lot breaks right, including goalie Robin Lehner being at his best, but they don’t have to the depth at the NHL level right now to withstand massive injuries like they had last season.
The Kraken are managing expectations as they build. They have selected Shane Wright and Matty Beniers in the top four of each of the past two NHL drafts and they have a chance to be their top two centers for more than a decade. They have been able to sign unrestricted free agents, including goalie Philipp Grubauer last summer and forward Andre Burakovsky this summer. I love the acquisition of forward Oliver Bjorkstrand from the Blue Jackets. He could be a 30-goal scorer for the Kraken. They have plenty of work to do, particularly on defense (they don’t have a No. 1 defenseman), but the Kraken will be improved in Year 2 from what they were in Year 1 and they’re tracking well with manageable expectations. And it certainly seems their strong fanbase is on board too. Seattle is a great sports town.
Would the Dallas Stars trade Jason Robertson if a deal can’t be reached by the start of the season? What about a deal to Chicago for Patrick Kane? — @im_that_dude20
I would be shocked if the Stars don’t get Robertson under contract before they hit the ice for training camp next month. They know how valuable he is to them, a 23-year-old forward who is coming off a season in which he had 79 points (41 goals, 38 assists) in 74 games, building on his rookie season of 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 51 games. It’s in Dallas’ best interest to get Robertson signed to a long-term contract, something along the lines of eight years with an average annual value of around $7.5 million or $8 million. That buys the Stars three years of his unrestricted free agent years. He would be eligible to become a UFA in the summer of 2027 under the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. But it’s possible Robertson doesn’t want to sign for more than five years because of the UFA factor. That’s a sticking point the Stars and Robertson can work around. It’s not one that should preclude them from getting him under contract before the season begins.
I wouldn’t entertain the thought of trading Robertson for Kane because of what I mention above. But if the Stars are going to trade Robertson, they would need to get more than Kane in return. You’re talking about a 23-year-old who scored 41 goals last season and is just entering his prime years versus a 33-year-old who is entering the last year of his contract. Kane is still one of the top players in the NHL, but Robertson’s value with his age, production and future outweighs the short-term Kane gain.
Assuming there’s no handshake deal for Nazem Kadri, are there any realistic ways for the New York Islanders to improve this summer? — @Tom_Verde
Kadri to the Islanders makes sense in the fact that they have the cap space and the need for more offense. He had 87 points with the Colorado Avalanche last season. They’d be loaded down the middle with Mathew Barzal, Kadri, Brock Nelson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Casey Cizikas. One of them would have to move to the wing. If I had to venture a guess, it would be Kadri or Nelson since they’re both left-handed and could play on a line with Barzal, a righty, taking face-offs on their strong sides. Barzal won 46.3 percent of his face-offs last season, lowest among the Islanders’ centers.
But if Kadri is not coming to New York, the Islanders can still improve by using the cap space they have available to acquire another scoring forward in a trade. Perhaps they swing for the fences and try to get Kane from the Blackhawks or Vladimir Tarasenko from the St. Louis Blues (although as I wrote in the mailbag last week, I don’t think he is getting traded). They would also benefit by acquiring a left-handed defenseman that they could play ahead of Sebastian Aho and Robin Salo. The left-handed defensemen still available as UFAs include Danny DeKeyser, Calvin de Haan, Ryan Murray and Kris Russell.
Are there any players you already suspect will be moved at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline? — @phruitloops420
Looking at the list of potential UFAs in the summer of 2023, I would place the following eight at the top of the list of likely to be traded before the deadline this season:
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, F
John Klingberg, Anaheim Ducks, D
James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers, F
Evgenii Dadonov, Montreal Canadiens, F
Shayne Gostisbehere, Arizona Coyotes, D
Max Domi, Chicago Blackhawks, F
Nick Bonino, San Jose Sharks, F
Damon Severson, New Jersey Devils, D
The Blackhawks are rebuilding, so Kane and Domi and, potentially, Jonathan Toews, are all high-level targets. Toews will be if he is healthy and playing well. I’m not sure the Blackhawks would trade both franchise icons, Kane and Toews, but with the direction they’re going, it certainly makes sense to get what they can if the plan is to not re-sign them. That remains to be seen.
The Ducks signed Klingberg to a one-year contract. He’ll stay if they like him and sign him to an extension or if they’re a legitimate playoff threat. Short of either, he’ll be moved. I also struggle to see how a 33-year-old van Riemsdyk fits into Philadelphia’s future plans, but again, it’s about where the Flyers are come deadline time and what impact he’s making.
The Devils are in an interesting position with Severson. I can see them trying to sign him to an extension, but if they can’t get that done, they’ll look to move him too. They’re in the same position with defenseman Ryan Graves, and forwards Erik Haula, Miles Wood, Andreas Johnsson and Tomas Tatar. If the Devils are in the playoff mix, I would expect them to go for it.
I don’t expect the Canadiens, Coyotes and Sharks to be playoff contenders this season, so keeping their pending UFAs beyond the deadline doesn’t make much sense.
As of now, who are your top three teams in the Metropolitan Division? — @KREIDERMAN20
1. New York Rangers
2. Carolina Hurricanes
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
It’s the same three as last season, just with the Rangers and Hurricanes changing spots, New York moving up to No. 1 and Carolina down to No. 2. I have to give the Rangers the edge because of Igor Shesterkin, who won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie last season. The Hurricanes took a hit Tuesday, when they announced Pacioretty would be out six months because he needs surgery to repair a torn Achilles. The Hurricanes lost center Vincent Trocheck in free agency to the Rangers and thought Pacioretty would be an impact player for them. Instead, he may not play until February at the earliest.
Where it gets interesting for me is after the Rangers and Hurricanes. The Penguins are third because we don’t have a clear picture of the Islanders yet. If Kadri goes to the Islanders and they get another left-handed defenseman, I might be inclined to put them at No. 3 and drop Pittsburgh to No. 4. I have reservations about the Penguins’ defense beyond Kris Letang and I worry about their health as an older team. They had a lot of injury issues last season and didn’t get any younger in the offseason. But the Islanders aren’t whole yet and, frankly, Mike Sullivan’s presence behind the Penguins bench might push them over the top anyway. He’s that good of a coach.
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