Here is the Nov. 11 edition of the mailbag. NHL.com staff writer Tracey Myers is pinch-hitting for senior writer Dan Rosen this week. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OverTheBoards.
Could the St. Louis Blues sign Mike Hoffman to a cheap, one-year deal? And if so, will he really help the team or be a problem in a tight locker room? — @HawaiiBluesFan
I think the Blues signing Hoffman, an unrestricted free agent, would be a good idea. Hoffman scored 59 points (29 goals, 30 assists) in 69 games for the Florida Panthers last season and has scored 359 points (172 goals, 187 assists) in 493 NHL games in nine seasons with the Panthers and Ottawa Senators. He’s one of seven NHL players to have scored at least 22 goals in each of the past six seasons (Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov, Brad Marchand, Sean Monahan, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares).
The Blues likely will be without Vladimir Tarasenko at the start of the season after the forward had shoulder surgery in early September. He was scheduled to be reevaluated five months after the surgery, and the NHL is targeting Jan. 1 to start the season. I know the Blues found enough offense when Tarasenko missed all but the first 10 games of last season after having shoulder surgery. But if a player like Hoffman is available, why not try to sign him to replace at least some of Tarasenko’s production?
Hoffman’s agent, Robert Hooper, told The Athletic in October that Hoffman is willing to sign a short-term contract, knowing there are some teams that will have to go that route to fit him under the NHL salary cap ($81.5 million).
And yes, I think Hoffman would fit into the Blues locker room just fine.
How long are the Chicago Blackhawks stuck with the four big contracts (Kane, center Jonathan Toews and defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook)? Could they find a buyer? — @SparrowsEdge
As of now, I expect each of the four to finish his contract with the Blackhawks. Kane, Toews and Keith each is signed through the end of the 2022-23 season. Seabrook’s contract runs through 2023-24. Each has a full no-move clause. Going back to what I talked about in the previous question, there are a lot of teams that are trying either to shed salary or avoid taking on a lot of salary and/or term. In their trade for defenseman Nikita Zadorov from the Colorado Avalanche, the Blackhawks retained $1 million of the $6 million forward Brandon Saad will make this season, and Zadorov signed his qualifying offer of $3.2 million, saving the Blackhawks $1.8 million toward the cap.
When Toews told The Athletic last month that he was surprised the Blackhawks were rebuilding, he also said he had no interest in playing elsewhere. I’d be surprised if Kane or Keith want to leave either. Seabrook? I go back to what he said July 24, the day before the Blackhawks traveled to the bubble in Edmonton for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers without him: “I don’t know where my place is here with the Blackhawks. As far as the NHL goes, I know I can be an impact player on a team.”
The Blackhawks have made no indication that they’re trading Seabrook, and considering what’s left on his contract, it’s unlikely anyway.
What’s wrong with Johnny Gaudreau? Now 27 years old and his production seems to have stalled. There have been so many rumors as to him moving on from the Calgary Flames. Could a change of scenery spark his game? Could the Philadelphia Flyers be an option? — @theashcity
It was surprising that Gaudreau scored 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists) in 70 games last season, the fewest he’s scored in his six full NHL seasons. But this is the same player who averaged 77.2 points the previous five seasons and was tied for seventh in the NHL with 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) in 2018-19. So I think the odds are good that he’s going to bounce back. At least that’s what my gut tells me. There’s just too much talent there, and anyone can have an off season.
Gaudreau has two seasons remaining on a six-year contract he signed Oct. 10, 2016. He said in August that he wants to stay with the Flames, who were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Dallas Stars in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round. Gaudreau scored four points (two goals, two assists) in Calgary’s six-game loss.
I’m sure there are many Philadelphia fans who would love to see Gaudreau wearing a Flyers jersey; he was born in Salem, New Jersey, about 40 miles south of Philadelphia. But if I’m the Flames, I’m not ready to send Gaudreau anywhere yet.
Why is Alex Nylander getting overlooked as far as a top prospect for the Blackhawks? He had a very good camp before the playoffs and is still a very young player. Just trying to figure out why everyone seems to be giving up on such a young player with his skills? — @HockeyTyler21
I see what you’re saying, but the Blackhawks front office and coaches are not overlooking or giving up on the 22-year-old forward. Nylander has shown flashes of the talent and skill that made him the No. 8 pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2016 NHL Draft, and those flashes make it understandable why the Blackhawks have given him opportunities to play among their top-six forwards.
The problem is he hasn’t been consistent. He scored 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists) in 65 games last season and has scored 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 84 NHL games for Chicago and Buffalo. Inconsistency isn’t unusual for a young player, but Blackhawks fans remember the big impact defenseman Henri Jokiharju, who was traded by Chicago for Nylander on July 9, 2019, made as a rookie in 2018-19. Selected by the Blackhawks with the No. 29 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, Jokiharju averaged 18:59 of ice time in 38 games and had great chemistry with Keith. He also was trusted by then-coach Joel Quenneville, who usually was reluctant to give young defensemen lots of playing time.
Is it fair to compare the two? Probably not, but that’s how it’s played out with some people. As I said, Nylander will get his opportunities with the Blackhawks. But with other young forwards expected to get more of a look this season, Nylander will have to be more consistent.