Here is the Feb. 5 edition of Dan Rosen’s weekly mailbag. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.
Do you see anyone that the New York Islanders could target at the deadline? — @Islesfan_26
The Islanders are not in an NHL salary cap crunch and they own all their picks in the NHL Draft in 2020, 2021 and 2022. They are 20th in the NHL at 2.88 goals scored per game and 19th on the power play at 19.2 percent, so they would benefit from getting another forward who can put the puck in the net. Three potential trade targets from the rental market could be forwards Jean-Gabriel Pageau of the Ottawa Senators, Ilya Kovalchuk of the Montreal Canadiens, and Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings.
Pageau is the most versatile of that group. He can play center or wing, and on the power play and penalty kill. He’s the player I’d be targeting. And that’s why I think the Senators should try to get him signed instead of trading him. The pending unrestricted free agent is 27 years old and has set a personal NHL best with 20 goals. Kovalchuk had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 13 games with the Canadiens . What he lacks in speed he makes up for with his shot. The Islanders do not have a player who can shoot it off the wing like Kovalchuk. Toffoli has 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) with the Kings. He should score more, and maybe a team that acquires him will catch some lightning in a bottle.
The Islanders also may look for a veteran defenseman because of Adam Pelech‘s season-ending Achilles tendon injury sustained Jan. 2. Their depth is thin and they have a rookie, Noah Dobson, playing 12:49 per game since Pelech left the lineup. Targets could include Andy Greene or Sami Vatanen of the New Jersey Devils, and Ron Hainsey of the Senators.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs fail to reach the playoffs, what’s next for GM Kyle Dubas? Could we see a blockbuster trade? — @theashcity
Make or miss, the Maple Leafs are going to undergo some changes in the offseason, especially at defenseman, where Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci and Jake Muzzin each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. It’s unlikely the Maple Leafs keep all three of them, especially with the emergence of Justin Holl on the right side and the likely staying power of rookie Rasmus Sandin on the left side. They need to address their goaltending situation, which is an active problem considering Frederik Andersen is day to day with a neck injury that will prevent him from playing against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, MSG, NHL.TV). But to your question, missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs would really stunt the growth of the Maple Leafs, who have made it three straight seasons and but are seeking their first series win since 2004. They’re supposed to take a step forward this season, and short of that it would be hard to deem this a successful season in Toronto. It might give them the impetus to make a bigger trade, using their strength (forward) to address some weaknesses (defensemen, grit). It’s safe to say that forwards John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner aren’t going anywhere, but the door could swing open for forward William Nylander to be moved in a trade. Certainly, forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and Alexander Kerfoot could be available prior to the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline of Feb. 24 if the Maple Leafs want to address goalie or defenseman now. The point is the Maple Leafs will be forced into changes because of the nature of their contract and salary cap structure.
Who do you see the Minnesota Wild trading away at the deadline, or would you say it makes more sense to wait until the summer? — @wild_4_MNhockey
The Wild have one pending unrestricted free agent, center Mikko Koivu, and my guess is they’re not going to attempt to trade their captain. The Wild don’t have to be in any hurry to make any trades prior to the deadline unless they want to bolster their chances of making the playoffs. They are six points out of the second wild card from the Western Conference. For the Wild to be active around the deadline it must be a trade or trades that will benefit them this season and in the future, with a heavy lean toward the future. It depends on the conversations general manager Bill Guerin has and the potential offers he gets, but with zero reason to rush it certainly seems reasonable to think it makes more sense to wait until the offseason, creating a likely larger pool of trade partners and available players.
What will it take for Ilya Samsonov to be considered for the Calder Trophy? Seems like the minds are made up that it will be either Cale Makar or Quinn Hughes. — @MeierGilles
Samsonov, the Washington Capitals rookie goalie, needs to play his way into the conversation for the Calder Trophy. He’s done well thus far, but it’s still limited action when you factor in an entire season. He has played in 21 of Washington’s 54 games. He needs the opportunity to stop either Makar, the Colorado Avalanche’s 21-year-old defenseman, or Hughes, the Vancouver Canucks’ 20-year-old defenseman, from winning the trophy by playing more than Braden Holtby for the rest of the way. That could become an issue after Samsonov was hit in the mask by an Alex Ovechkin shot during the morning skate Tuesday and left for evaluation.
I find it hard to give anyone a major NHL award if he hasn’t played at least half of his team’s games, or at the very least more than half of their games in the second half, when the top two candidates (Makar and Hughes) play all the time. There is a difference, obviously, with a goalie because he plays the full game, but if Samsonov becomes the goalie the Capitals rely on in the last two months of the regular season and wins most of those games, he’ll work himself into consideration. Pretty simple, really, but that’s the bar to get him in the mix for the Calder Trophy.
How close are the Canucks to being contenders? — @HeyimbanuPeter
Closer than I thought they’d be by this point this season. They’re not yet at the level of the St. Louis Blues when it comes to contending in the playoffs. I don’t think they have that kind of experience and ability to win in different ways yet. I wonder if they’re at the level of the Avalanche and Dallas Stars too. They’re certainly closer to them than they are to the Blues, but that puts them right in the second tier of contenders in the Western Conference (the Blues are alone in the top tier right now). That makes them legit. What I need to see is consistency from now until the end of the season to believe the Canucks can do some damage in the playoffs. They’ve had some long streaks of good and not-so-good this season. They were 8-1-3 from Oct. 12-Nov. 5, went 7-12-1 in their next 20 games, and are 14-4-1 in their past 19 games, including a 4-0 loss to the Bruins on Tuesday. I don’t expect them to win nearly 80 percent of their games the rest of the way, but if they can keep it at 60 percent it could be enough to hold on to first place in the Pacific Division, which certainly solidifies the Canucks as a contender. The good news is they play 16 of their final 28 games at home, where they have won nine straight games and are 17-5-3 this season. They have a six-game homestand that starts against the Calgary Flames on Saturday. Twelve of their final 28 games are against teams that are not in a playoff position, including three against the Anaheim Ducks. The opportunity is there for Vancouver.
What I generally like about the Canucks is their balanced scoring. Forwards J.T. Miller (22 points), Elias Pettersson (20), Bo Horvat (18) and Tanner Pearson (18) all were close to point-per-game players in the 19 games they had played since Dec. 19. Four others had at least 10 points, and 16 of the 19 skaters who played in at least five games had at least one goal. However, they still have issues controlling the puck, spending too much time in the defensive zone and relying too much on goalies Jakob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko. They need to continue to work on that part of the game so they can have better control if, or I really should say when, they get to the playoffs.
Legitimate contenders have at least three lines that can score and a fourth line that can be dangerous, balanced defense pairs that help to generate offense (Vancouver was ninth in the League with 115 points from defensemen), and two goalies who can win. The Canucks have all of that.
What will it take for Artemi Panarin to enter the Hart Trophy conversation? Are the playoffs a starting point? — @tanner_pruden
Making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, or at least staying alive in the race until the final week, is my bar to be in the conversation to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. I don’t have a vote, but that’s what I think it should be. Panarin should be in the conversation now based on what he has meant to the New York Rangers and how he’s the biggest reason they’re on the fringes of the race. The Rangers are 11 points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference after losing 5-3 to the Stars on Monday. They likely wouldn’t be that close without Panarin, who is fifth in the NHL and leads the Rangers with 71 points (27 goals, 44 assists), 27 more than any teammate. He has scored or assisted on 42.8 percent of their 166 goals. However, if the Rangers don’t make the playoffs or if they fall out of the race in the next month and a half, Panarin’s candidacy for the trophy should take a major hit in the same way Connor McDavid‘s chance of winning the Hart Trophy dropped at the end of the 2017-18 season. The Edmonton Oilers center won the Art Ross Trophy as the League’s leading scorer that season with 108 points (41 goals, 67 assists) but finished fifth in the Hart Trophy voting, receiving six of the 164 first-place votes, mainly because the Oilers missed the playoffs by 17 points. The last player from a non-playoff team to win the Hart Trophy was Mario Lemieux in 1987-88, when he led the NHL with 168 points (70 goals, 98 assists) and the Pittsburgh Penguins missed by one point.
Listen: New episode of NHL @The Rink