If the Chicago Blackhawks are granted cap relief via LTIR on Marian Hossa‘s hit, do they acquire another player and when? Who would be a fit? — @k_corpstein

My assumption is the Blackhawks will look to use the relief they would get from Hossa’s $5.275 million NHL salary-cap charge to beef up their roster, but it won’t come until after the season begins. The Blackhawks will wait until then to put the forward, who will miss this season because of a progressive skin disorder and side effects of medication to treat it, on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) because that will give them the most cap flexibility throughout the season. Therefore, they must be compliant with Hossa’s charge on their cap when they submit their final roster to the NHL before opening night. When and how they decide to use the cap relief they’ll get depends a lot on how they start the season. Provided they don’t struggle early, general manager Stan Bowman can exercise patience and get a true indication of what the Blackhawks need. It might be help on defense, which could lead to the Blackhawks being big-time players in the days leading up to the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline. With the LTIR cap space, Bowman could look for rental options. If the feeling is Hossa’s career is in jeopardy, Bowman might contemplate looking beyond the rental market at players who still have term remaining on their contracts. It’s a fluid situation.

Video: CBJ@CHI: Hossa slides home a backhand with nice move

 

With the potential cap relief by 2018-19, pending trades and miscellaneous contracts, what are the odds of John Tavares landing with the Detroit Red Wings, assuming he doesn’t re-sign with the New York Islanders? — @HanzeKopitar

I think Tavares is going to re-sign with the Islanders, so this very well may be a moot point. However, I’ll entertain your question just in case.

The odds are fair that the Red Wings will legitimately be in the market for Tavares, but it’ll take some work to free up the money to sign him and keep a winning roster intact around him. He’s not signing if the Red Wings look like they’re going to have to rebuild; if he leaves the Islanders he’ll want to go somewhere to win immediately.

As for the Red Wings and the NHL salary cap, the significant charges I could see coming off next season are that of defenseman Mike Green ($6 million), goaltender Petr Mrazek ($4 million) and forward Riley Sheahan ($2.075 million). The Red Wings must decide on a No. 1 goaltender between Mrazek and Jimmy Howard ($5.291 million) and move on from the other. That would free up some space. However, the Red Wings will need to give new contracts to forwards Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. The Red Wings might be able to create a bit more cap space through trades, LTIR placements and buyouts.

So, Detroit is a realistic candidate, but I think Tavares will sign an eight-year contract with the Islanders, and the rest of the NHL will be disappointed.

Video: BOS@NYI: Tavares weaves into zone and nets wrister

 

Will the New Jersey Devils be better or worse with the offseason acquisitions? — @HarryJB4

Better. But not enough to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Devils must be better than they were last season or it could spell doom for coach John Hynes and maybe even general manager Ray Shero. 

In Marcus Johansson, they have another legitimate top-six forward with the potential to score 20-plus goals and approach 60 points. In Brian Boyle, they have a legitimate fourth-line center or bottom-six wing with experience and terrific penalty-killing instincts. In center Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, they have a potential future star, but the Devils can be patient with him because they are not expected to be Stanley Cup contenders. 

The Devils might eventually have enviable center depth with Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac and Boyle. If Hischier makes the roster, one of them will start the season on the wing. 

The Devils need to improve their defense in front of goalie Cory Schneider to help him be better than he was last season; a .908 save percentage and 2.82 goals-against average are not typical for him. The Devils won’t show progress if his numbers don’t improve.

They have promising young players in defensemen Mirco Mueller and Steven Santini, and forwards Joe Blandisi, Miles Wood, John Quenneville, Michael McLeod and Blake Speers. It’ll be interesting to see who among them emerges.

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm6: Johansson clinches series win in OT

 

Do the New York Rangers go with Cristoval Nieves/Lias Andersson to fill the lack of center or do they still trade for one? — @Avrahamyeshaya

Too early to tell, but I’m leaning more toward them trading for another center. That might not come until the middle of training camp or just before the start of the season. The Rangers could go into camp with the idea that David Desharnais, Nieves and Andersson will compete for the bottom two center spots. They’ll have time to evaluate where they are before trying to make a trade provided one doesn’t come up that general manager Jeff Gorton can’t pass up. They could try to trade defenseman Nick Holden to make room for Anthony DeAngelo. Neal Pionk and Alexei Bereglazov could push for roster spots, perhaps making the Rangers willing to trade a top-six defenseman. Tyler Bozak of the Toronto Maple Leafs center would be the perfect No. 3 center for the Rangers, but would the Maple Leafs want Holden, and what else would they want? I think Gorton is still investigating his options. If they go with Nieves and Andersson, Rangers fans will get a glimpse of the future. Andersson is projected as being at least a No. 2 center.

Video: SJS@EDM, Gm5: Desharnais strikes for OT win

 

The Winnipeg Jets have a great top-six forward group and a pretty enviable defense group. With Steve Mason in net how far are they from contention? — @HeyimbanuPeter

I don’t believe Mason is a goalie who can put any team over the top. He’s streaky, but that means he’s inconsistent. He’ll play behind a better defense in Winnipeg than he did with the Philadelphia Flyers. However, the Jets were fourth in the NHL in goals against last season (255) and 26th on the penalty kill (77.5 percent), and that’s not all on the goaltending. Mason might take some pressure off Connor Hellebuyck, but it would be a lot for the Jets to ask Mason to carry them to the playoffs. 

The Jets’ chances of being a playoff team hinge on their bottom-six forward depth. They do have a strong projected top-six forward group of Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault. However, they need some balance, which means they’ll need production and strong two-way performances from the players projected to be in their bottom-six group, including Joel Armia (24), Kyle Connor (20) and Marko Dano (22), who are all young. The Jets can’t be top heavy and expect to contend in the Central Division. 

Plenty of people around the NHL have been waiting for the Jets to take the next step, but they’ve had problems with goaltending, defense and discipline. If they iron out those issues they have enough to be a playoff team. Can they do it? I have my reservations.

Video: PHI@NJD: Mason snares Bennett’s quick wrister

 

Win/loss prediction for the Arizona Coyotes for the upcoming season? — @DesertDogma

Their young players a year older. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is presumably healthy. They added experienced, winning veterans in center Derek Stepan and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Antti Raanta has to prove himself as a No. 1 goalie. Coach Rick Tocchet should bring new energy behind the bench. I think the Coyotes should have a strong second season of what could be a three-season rebuilding project before they become playoff contenders. I’ll put them at 36-37 wins and 83-85 points. They had 30 wins and 70 points last season.

Video: ARI@TBL: Ekman-Larsson rifles one in off the post


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