Mailbag: Capitals coaches, futures of Palmieri, Gusev with Devils

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Coach Peter Laviolette and assistant Kevin McCarthy are set to take over the Washington Capitals. These two have been on the same bench for what seems like forever. Can this tandem be in consideration for one of the best in the NHL? Could we see them raise another Cup? — @theashcity

There have been some successful coaching tandems in the NHL. Among the good current duos are coach Barry Trotz and associate Lane Lambert, who worked together with the Nashville Predators, won the Cup with the Capitals in 2018 and have helped turn the New York Islanders around the past two seasons.

But you’re right; there might not be a better coaching tandem right now than Laviolette and McCarthy. Laviolette, 56, inherited McCarthy, 63, as an assistant when he replaced Paul Maurice as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003, and they’ve been together ever since. They won the Cup with Carolina in 2006 and reached the Stanley Cup Final with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 and Nashville in 2017. McCarthy, who will work with Washington’s defensemen, considered retirement after he and Laviolette were fired by the Predators last season but couldn’t pass on another opportunity to work with Laviolette because he believes the Capitals have a chance to win the Cup again after doing it in 2018.

“They have a roster, which I believe, can compete for a Cup right away,” McCarthy said after he was hired on Oct. 21.

So it is possible we could see Laviolette and McCarthy raise the Cup together again. That’s obviously their plan.

 

Assuming the New Jersey Devils are two seasons away from being a solid Stanley Cup Playoff team, which player gets re-signed, Kyle Palmieri or Nikita Gusev? Which gives the team a better chance long term and why? — @C_Diercks

Palmieri and Gusev each can become an unrestricted free agent after this season, so New Jersey will have to decide about the forwards’ futures in the coming months, but there is no reason to rush. Although the Devils are rebuilding, I think they will be much improved this season under new coach Lindy Ruff with the continued maturation of centers Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, and the addition of goalie Corey Crawford.

But if the Devils aren’t in contention for a playoff berth at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline and Palmieri and Gusev don’t agree to contract extensions before then, they’ll likely have to trade them. I think both can be key pieces for their future, though, if they re-sign.

Palmieri has scored at least 24 goals in each of his five seasons with the Devils and led them with 25 goals and 45 points last season. The 29-year-old grew up in Montvale, New Jersey, so there’s a comfortable fit there too.

In his first NHL season after 11 seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, Gusev finished second on the Devils with 44 points and led them with 31 assists last season. It will be interesting to see how much the 28-year-old elevates his game in his second season.

Picking one to re-sign is difficult. They are similar in age, so that’s not a big factor. The Devils need goal scorers. Palmieri is their lone returning player who scored at least 20 goals last season, and Gusev has been more of a playmaker in the KHL and NHL.

But if I have to pick one to re-sign, I’d lean toward Palmieri, though I would wait until closer to the trade deadline (or later if the Devils are in a playoff spot) to make a decision to see how each plays this season.

Video: NJD@NYR: Palmieri beats Shesterkin from tough angle

 

Where do you see the rivalry between the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers going in the next 3-5 seasons? — @CheepnisNHL

This is an exciting question to ponder after the Islanders reached the Eastern Conference Final last season and the young Rangers got a taste of postseason hockey in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Although the Islanders have some older players, most of their core is 30 or younger and their best player, restricted free agent center Mathew Barzal, is 23.

The long-awaited arrival of Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin this season should add to the rivalry too; the 25-year-old starred for CSKA Moscow in the KHL the past five seasons and is friends with Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, who played for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL before coming to North America last season.

The Rangers rebuild received a boost when they won the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery and selected 19-year-old forward Alexis Lafreniere with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. His addition followed a 2019 offseason that included selecting forward Kaapo Kakko (also 19) with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft, trading for 22-year-old defenseman Adam Fox, the arrival of Shesterkin, 24, and signing forward Artemi Panarin, 29, has quickly transformed the Rangers into a Stanley Cup Playoff contender; they have not qualified since 2017.

Games between the Islanders and the Rangers are always fun. Each being a Cup contender at the same time, which appears possible in the coming seasons, would take the rivalry to a level we haven’t seen since the New York teams last met in the playoffs in 1994.

Video: Top 10 Artemi Panarin plays from 2019-20

 

Who do you think will end up taking over in goal for the Boston Bruins after this season? Is Dan Vladar or Jeremy Swayman the next man up? — @GlaSnoST9

Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak each can become an unrestricted free agent after this season, so the Bruins will have to address their goaltending future at some point. Although there has been some speculation that Rask will retire, the 33-year-old has said he is open to signing an extension with the Bruins and told the Boston Herald in October that he doesn’t want to play for another team.

“I think where my head’s at is focusing on next year and then hopefully a couple of more years after that and then pass the torch for the next guy after that,” Rask told the newspaper.

If Rask re-signs for two more seasons after this one, that should be enough time for Boston to groom its next No. 1. If Rask doesn’t re-sign, the Bruins will likely have to re-sign Halak, who will be 36 when this season is over, to a short-term contract or bring in another veteran to mentor Swayman or Vladar next season.

Swayman, a fourth-round pick (No. 111) in the 2017 NHL Draft, has the potential to be a No. 1 goalie, but the 22-year-old will be a first-year pro this season after three seasons at the University of Maine. He and Vladar, a third-round pick (No. 75) in the 2015 draft, are expected to split the duties with Providence of the American Hockey League this season.

Vladar, who is on loan to Pardubice in the Czech Extraliga while awaiting the start of the NHL and AHL seasons, made his NHL debut in a relief appearance against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs last season. But the 23-year-old probably needs more NHL experience before asking him to be Boston’s No. 1.

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