Here is the Oct. 14 edition of Dan Rosen’s mailbag. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.
Which goalie between Collin Delia, Malcolm Subban and Kevin Lankinen do you think has the best chance of being the No. 1 for the Chicago Blackhawks? — @GLaSnoST9
It has to be Subban. He has the most experience with 66 NHL games, including 60 starts, and is 30-23-7 with a 2.97 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. Delia has played in 18 NHL games (16 starts) and is 7-5-3 with a 3.65 GAA and .906 save percentage. But he hasn’t played an NHL game since March 13, 2019. Lankinen has never played in an NHL game.
I’m surprised that the Blackhawks have gone down this road with their goaltending instead of re-signing Corey Crawford or finding another veteran, even on a one-year contract. Perhaps they still do that considering there are options on the goalie market, including Craig Anderson, who is from the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, Illinois. Jimmy Howard and Ryan Miller also are available. But right now it seems the Blackhawks are intent on going into the season with these three goalies hoping one of them emerges. It has caught the ire of captain Jonathan Toews, who expressed his shock in a story published by The Athletic. I agree with Toews. I didn’t see the Blackhawks going in this direction, not when they have Toews and right wing Patrick Kane in their prime with forwards Alex DeBrincat, Dominik Kubalik and Kirby Dach on the rise.
It surprises me even more because the Blackhawks are a team that gives up a high volume of shots on goal because of the style they play. They’re aggressive and they open it up. They allowed the most shots on goal per game in the NHL last season (35.1). I thought they’d want a goalie who had experience facing a heavy shot volume in the NHL so they’d have more confidence about negating some of the odd-man rushes they’ll allow. Maybe Subban, Delia or Lankinen is that guy. None is close to a sure thing, but I guess the Blackhawks won’t know unless they’re given a chance. In that respect, it makes sense, but it’s a tough sell.
How many points will Alexis Lafreniere score in his rookie season? — @SIickRick23
I trust Craig Button’s analysis of prospects, and the director of scouting for TSN, a former NHL general manager, said he thinks Lafreniere could score 60 points in a full season as a rookie with the New York Rangers. So if they play 82 games, 60 points is the bar for me. That said, I’ll be surprised if Lafreniere reaches it, let alone clears it in an 82-game season. I’m more inclined to say between 45-50 points. We can go back and do the prorating math if the game schedule is reduced, but this is going to come down to opportunity with the Rangers. New York has the luxury of easing Lafreniere into the NHL because of its depth at left wing. Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider are ahead of him. If all three remain left wings, Lafreniere likely will start the season on the third line, probably with Filip Chytil as his center depending on what happens with Ryan Strome, a restricted free agent who is scheduled for salary arbitration Nov. 5. It’s not a lock that Lafreniere will be on the top power-play unit; the forward spots could go to Mika Zibanejad, Panarin, Kreider and either Pavel Buchnevich or Strome. Kaapo Kakko could have an inside track to play on PP1 too. Lafreniere could blow all of that up if he comes out hot, but for now I’m going more conservative in a production prediction.
Thoughts on the free agent signings in Florida? — @TSNPat
It’s been a solid and productive dive into the market for the Florida Panthers. They didn’t overspend, though maybe the third year given to defenseman Radko Gudas was going a tad too far. They gave forwards Alexander Wennberg and Vinnie Hinostroza one-year contracts. Each could provide significant value because of his versatility and ability to play at both ends of the rink. Forwards Carter Verhaeghe and Ryan Lomberg got two-year contracts, so clearly the Panthers are thinking they can be around for a while in different roles. Verhaeghe has more of the skill upside; Lomberg is filled with energy and he gets physical, elements the Panthers needed. As I mentioned, Gudas is a good signing because of the bite he brings, clearly an element missing from the Panthers defensemen last season. Gudas makes them a harder team. I also like the addition of defenseman Markus Nutivaara in a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets for forward Cliff Pu. Nutivaara strengthens the defensive depth. I like his first-pass ability.
These aren’t huge moves, but they can help Florida. The Panthers are built around forwards Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov, defenseman Aaron Ekblad, and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, but the additions in the past week improve their depth and make them a more intimidating opponent. It’s a good start for first-year general manager Bill Zito.
With Torey Krug leaving Boston for St. Louis, what moves should the Boston Bruins make to replace him? Do they rely on Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk taking the next step? Or is there a free agent defenseman or a trade they could make to help replicate what Krug meant to the team? — @Paxton_Stover
I don’t see the Bruins replacing Krug with anybody like him. They don’t have the space under the NHL salary cap to do it. If they did, they would have signed Krug. So, yes, it’s on McAvoy to continue to show he’s a capable No. 1 defenseman after averaging 25:10 of ice time in 13 postseason games and 23:10 in 67 regular-season games. McAvoy had right-knee surgery Sept. 8, but the Bruins announced he should be ready for the start of the season, which is targeted for Jan. 1, 2021. It’s on Grzelcyk to take some of the responsibilities that Krug had, which likely means more time on the power play and playing the left side on the second defense pair with Brandon Carlo on his right. And the Bruins are going to need somebody else to step up on the left side, be it Urho Vaakanainen, Jeremy Lauzon or John Moore. They might need two of them to become key contributors depending on what happens with Zdeno Chara, who is still unsigned. But the key is Grzelcyk because he has many of the same attributes as Krug in that he’s a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who plays bigger than his size (5-foot-9, 174 pounds). Grzelcyk has to show he’s capable of handling bigger minutes against stiffer competition. The Bruins seem to be banking on it.
If you were New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald, what is your plan with P.K. Subban? He has been rather lackluster since joining the Devils. — @theashcity
Play him. Play him a lot. The Devils need him. Subban is their most experienced and most threatening defenseman with the puck. The Devils need to let him be himself. New coach Lindy Ruff can’t try to turn Subban into something he is not; he needs to let him skate with the puck, move around on defense, play on the power play, and be a shooter from up top.
One thing I know from covering Subban is that he’s all in when he’s at the rink or in the gym. He trains hard. He works hard. He plays hard. And he’s all in with the Devils. Yes, he has a lot going on off the ice, but there’s nothing wrong with an athlete having interests outside the game as long as he’s putting in the work. Subban puts in the work, and the Devils need to play him a lot and let him be the defenseman he has been for his entire career. Play him 22-23 minutes. Play him on the power play. Let’s see if Subban can rediscover all of his mojo that seemed to leave him last season, his first in New Jersey. He has a $9 million salary cap charge, and he’s not going anywhere in a flat-cap market, so give him the ice time and let him battle with Damon Severson to be the No. 1 right-handed defenseman playing with either Ryan Murray or Will Butcher. Maybe he plays so well and the Devils improve. Maybe he plays so well and his trade value increases. There’s no reason not to play him.