Here’s the August 3rd edition of the mailbag, where we answer questions we’ve been asked on Twitter using #OvertheBoards. Tweet your questions to @drosennhl.
Do the St. Louis Blues still have ongoing discussions with teams about Vladimir Tarasenko? There have been mixed reports about him still wanting to date, but the talks appear to have completely died down. What are the chances he ends up with the team this year and leaves in free agency? — @BeerLeagueSelke
He’s been quiet on the Tarasenko front with the Blues, but I think that’s by design. I have no reason to believe the trade request he submitted before last season has been rescinded, but that doesn’t mean St. Louis wants or has to trade him. Tarasenko was trade-free last season and did well, putting up 82 points (34 goals, 48 assists) in 75 games to help the Blues qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
I don’t think Tarasenko’s value in the trade market is strong enough for the Blues to trade him now or before the season. They would have to get a striker back in the top six to replace him, especially since they lost David Perron in free agency, who signed a two-year, $9.5 million deal ($4.75 million average annual value) with the Detroit Red Wings. But Tarasenko is 30 years old and entering the final year of an eight-year, $60 million ($7.5 million AAV) contract. Why would a team give St. Louis one of its best forward sixes for Tarasenko when he’s on the wrong side of 30 and there’s no guarantee they’ll have him any longer than this season? Let’s not forget his history of shoulder injuries. It could be different if Tarasenko is willing to sign an extension upon being traded, but he would be doing it blind. He has never played for another team in the NHL, so I hesitate to think that he would marry a new franchise without ever playing for them. He, too, might be drawn to the opportunity to become UFA next summer.
My feeling is that Tarasenko will be with the Blues this season and they will try to take one more magical ride with him and center. Ryan O’Reilly, who is 31 years old and one year away from unrestricted free agency, entering the final year of a seven-year contract. It’s also possible that they could get one or both of them to sign contract extensions before or during the season.
With offseason acquisitions and coaching changes coupled with further development of their young players, can the New Jersey Devils finally make a playoff push? — @keithcaporelli
The Devils are definitely deeper and positioned to be a better team with the additions of forwards. Palate of Ondrej Y Erik Hauladefenders Juan Marino Y Brendan Smithand goalkeeper Vitek Vanecek. I love the additions of Palat and Haula. New Jersey needed a more veteran presence in its group of forwards in the top nine. The devils have it with those two. Palat could be perfect for jack hughes. he was for Nikita Kucherov Y brayden point when they played together with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He plays well with skilled players. With dougie hamilton, Damon Seversen and Marino, the Devils are strong on the right side of the blue line. That buys time Simon Nemec, the No. 2 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. Smith is a versatile veteran. will play behind ryan graves Y Jonas Siegenthaleressentially buying time to lucas hughes, the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft who is expected to play one more season at the University of Michigan. Vanecek and Mackenzie Blackwood They have the woods of a good tandem of goalkeepers, but neither of them is safe. Either way, it can’t be any worse than last season, when the Devils used seven goalies and the only one with a save percentage of .900 or better was jonathan bernier (.902), who played 10 games, none after Dec. 3 because of a debilitating hip injury.
But to make the playoffs, the Devils must, at a minimum, be in the top five in the Metropolitan Division, and that’s only good enough if they’re better than the fourth-place team in the Atlantic Division. So are the Devils better than the Carolina Hurricanes? Not difficult. Are they better than the New York Rangers? Not difficult, again. Are they better than the Pittsburgh Penguins? I don’t see it. Are they better than the Washington capitals? Maybe. What about the New York Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets? That remains to be seen. They were 18 points behind the sixth-place Blue Jackets last season. They’re no better than the Lightning, Florida Panthers or Toronto Maple Leafs, the consensus top three in the Atlantic Division. I think the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators will fight for fourth place, but I’m not convinced New Jersey is better than those two teams.
The Devils have improved this offseason and have some star power in Luke Hughes, Nemec and forward Alexander Holtz. But I’m not ready to predict that they will make the playoffs, not with the uncertainty at the net and the distance they have to go to be better than last season.
Where do you think Pat Verbeek’s plan for the Anaheim Ducks is going? All I know is that he wants big boys. Where do you look for scoring and defensive depth? In spite of the John Klingberg firm, is there still a significant gap in defense? — @pucksngraps
There are gaps in the Ducks’ depth chart that need to be filled because they’re rebuilding and it’s a process. Adding Klingberg on a one-year deal is important this season. It’s a test to see if the Ducks and Klingberg can extend the marriage for many more seasons. She will turn 30 on August 14. He’s not too old to be a big part of the Ducks’ future because they’re not too far off.
Verbeek, the Ducks’ general manager, wants speed and strength. That doesn’t have to mean great players. He means fast players who can compete hard at the puck. He has stated many times that he didn’t think the Ducks were fast enough last season. They have dynamic young players up front. trevor zegras Y troy terryand defense jamie drysdale. They need more. Forward mctavish mason he could make the opening night roster in a top nine role. The No. 3 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft has size (6-foot, 213 pounds) and speed. He is the kind of player Verbeek wants. added forwards ryan strome Y Frank Vatran in free agency. That’s two forwards in the top six who can skate and compete hard on the puck. Strome is a playmaker. Vatrano is a marksman. They are solid additions to complement Zegras and Terry up front, just as Klingberg is at the back to join Drysdale, cam chaser Y Kevin Shattenkirk.
The Ducks need more players who are quick and compete hard with the puck, players who can defend well and score. They expect some to come with McTavish accompanied by forwards. Jacob Perreault, brayden-tracey Y Benoit-Olivier Groulx. They need time to become NHL players and they might have a chance this season.
Thoughts on rivalry game programming? Should there be some kind of favoritism towards rivalries or does dividing up the schedule more really help grow the game/markets better? — @mikeybox
I’m all for rivalry games, but I’m not all for a lot of them. It may sound great that the Rangers and the Islanders, the Maple Leafs and the Senators, the Kings and the Ducks, the Flames and the Oilers, the Penguins and the Flyers, the Bruins and the Canadiens, and the Lightning and the Panthers play each other. yes up to eight or 10 times in a season. but that’s too much. I’d be fine with five times a season, which is at least one more time than they play now. The Rangers and Islanders have met just three times, all before Dec. 22. That’s not enough. I am not convinced that all teams need to play in all markets. For example, as much as Philadelphia fans would love to see Connor McDavid and the Oilers are coming to town, I think they’d be fine sacrificing that opportunity for another game against sidney crosby and the penguins. Similarly, Crosby going to play in Southern California is important, but an additional Ducks-Kings game would likely appeal to the local fan base more. But the NHL’s scheduling matrix requires each team to play at least once home and away, and the competitive balance in the league makes it hard to argue against that. Attendance numbers are also strong (the NHL played at 90 percent modified capacity last season with 20.7 million fans attending games), so clearly the current system works.