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Mailbag: Kane, Toews future with Blackhawks, Sabres growth

 

Which of these guys will still be with their current teams when the puck drops next October: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, Ryan Strome, Mackenzie Blackwood, Jakob Chychrun, John Klingberg, Vladimir Tarasenko and Filip Forsberg? — @jreinitzesq

Yes: Kane, Toews, DeBrincat, Forsberg, Blackwood, Chychrun

No: Miller, Boeser, Strome, Klingberg, Tarasenko

Kane and Toews are still the heartbeat of the Chicago Blackhawks and it makes sense to keep the two three-time Stanley Cup winning forwards while they focus on a rebuild. The only way either is traded is if A) they ask to be traded and B) the Blackhawks can move them, which could be problematic with the NHL salary cap. Each will be entering the last season of his eight-year contract. Kane has more value than Toews at this point because of his production and lack of a significant injury history, but he has also said he wants to stay with the Blackhawks, so they could be looking at an extension for him. The 33-year-old right wing is still their best player, but if he’s amenable to a trade and healthy come the offseason, the Blackhawks could get a lot for him to fuel their rebuild, including a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, which they don’t have. I still think keeping Kane is the best move for their young players. Moving Toews is harder because he’s not the same player he used to be. Chicago will likely have to retain salary if it trades its captain, but will that be worth it? DeBrincat is a 24-year-old elite goal scorer. You don’t trade those players; you build around them. He has one year left on his contract and I can see him signing an extension before next season begins.

I think Forsberg will eventually re-sign with the Nashville Predators. He likely knows what he can get if he becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season, and Nashville knows too. Despite being in position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Predators would have likely traded Forsberg before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline if they didn’t think they had a legitimate chance to re-sign him. I think they get it done. 

Blackwood is signed for next season with the New Jersey Devils. He may not be their No. 1 goalie because they need to address that position to make it more secure, but his value isn’t high enough to be moved either after an injury-plagued season. Blackwood hasn’t played since Jan. 19 because of a hip injury. He can be a 1B or a No. 2 for New Jersey depending on who it might get in the offseason.

I never understood the fascination with trading Chychrun from the Arizona Coyotes’ perspective. He’s a 24-year-old defenseman signed for three more seasons and should be a big part of their rebuild. They should be looking to trade some of their seven picks in the first two rounds of the 2022 draft, when three are in the first round, to improve the roster for next season.

The situations involving Miller and Boeser make me believe they’re both going to be moved in the offseason. Miller has one year remaining on a five-year contract he signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 26, 2018 that carries a $5.25 million salary cap charge and will be 30 when a new contract kicks in. The Canucks want to go younger, so signing a 30-year-old to a big contract isn’t ideal. Boeser can become a restricted free agent after this season, when his three-year, $17.5 million contract (average annual value $5.87 million) expires. He’s two years from unrestricted free agency. There will be a lot of interest in him if he’s available. 

Tarasenko has asked the St. Louis Blues to trade him. The forward has been good for them this season, but we haven’t heard anything about his trade request being rescinded. If the offer fits the Blues’ needs, expect them to move the 30-year-old in the offseason. He has one year remaining on his contract with a $7.5 million salary cap charge. Strome (New York Rangers) and Klingberg (Dallas Stars) are pending UFAs. I’d be surprised if they didn’t test the market.

Video: [email protected]: Kane takes lead on power play

 

How do you think the Buffalo Sabres prospects will impact the team next year? — @SigShiesty99

You’re seeing signs of growth from the Sabres, who are 10-4-3 in 17 games since March 2. Buffalo was 16-30-8 after a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Feb. 27. The Sabres have played the spoiler’s role well, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs twice, Vegas Golden Knights and Predators. You have to like that they’ve taken the last two months of the season seriously, particularly since they’ve played well with nine players who are 24 years old or younger in the lineup on most nights; forwards Peyton Krebs, 21, Dylan Cozens, 21, Casey Mittelstadt, 23, Tage Thompson, 24, and Rasmus Asplund, 24, and defensemen Rasmus Dahlin, 21, Henri Jokiharju, 22, Mattias Samuelsson, 22, and Jacob Bryson, 24. Most or all should be around next season with defenseman Owen Power, 19, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, and forward Jack Quinn, 20, the No. 8 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, and potentially forward JJ Peterka, 20, the No. 34 pick in 2020. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, a 23-year-old goalie prospect, will have a chance for playing time next season.

Power will be a favorite for the Calder Trophy next season assuming he signs after playing for the University of Michigan in the 2022 NCAA Frozen Four. General manager Kevyn Adams said in January that Power could sign and join the Sabres before the end of the season. Peterka and Quinn are the top two scorers for Rochester in the American Hockey League. Peterka is first with 58 points (22 goals, 36 assists) in 59 games and Quinn has scored 50 points (23 goals, 27 assists) in 34 games. Luukkonen has struggled, going 11-12-4 with a 3.51 goals-against average and .894 save percentage for Rochester, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have a chance to be a goalie for the Sabres next season. 

 

Are the Detroit Red Wings going to bounce back next season with more young players and a new head coach? — @Count_Willis

Jeff Blashill is still the coach and I’m sure they’ll reevaluate that with everything else when this season is over. The Red Wings’ goal differential in the first period and third period is alarming. They are minus-30 in the first period (outscored 76-46) and an NHL-worst minus-39 in the third (outscored 109-70). Only the Montreal Canadiens have a worse first-period goal differential than Detroit (minus-41, outscored 86-45). That says they start slow and finish poorly.

The Red Wings are still in the middle of a rebuild and not yet ready to move to the next phase. They’re still trying to figure out who is a part of the future. This season has been good because it has shown that defenseman Moritz Seider and forward Lucas Raymond are players they can build around. It’s unlikely forward Dylan Larkin is going anywhere. He’s 25, the captain, Detroit’s leading scorer and signed through next season, so a new contract could be coming. But they might be the only untouchables. That’s not a sign that the Red Wings are going to bounce back and suddenly become a playoff contender next season. 

Video: [email protected]: Raymond wires in Larkin’s feed for his 20th

 

Should the Norris Trophy be awarded to the best defenseman and not the best offensive defenseman? Does scoring goals trump playing your position? — @theashcity

The Norris Trophy is awarded to the best defenseman in the NHL. In most seasons, the voters get it right. This season, they can’t go wrong. Roman Josi of the Predators and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche are the top two candidates. There are compelling arguments for both, and their gaudy offensive numbers have a lot to do with it. Josi leads the position with 84 points (19 goals, 65 assists) and Makar leads in goals (24) and is second in points (75). They each play at least 25 minutes per game in all situations. They play less on the penalty kill than other defensemen on their respective teams, but Josi and Makar are top 15 in the NHL in even-strength and power play minutes per game. They are the two best defensemen in the NHL this season in part because they drive offense for their team. 

The old adage is the best defense is a good offense. Josi and Makar spend more time in the offensive zone than they do the defensive zone. And when they’re in the defensive zone, they rarely get beat and are typically transitioning the puck out of the zone to get back to playing offense. There is no reason to add a trophy for offensive defenseman or make any distinction in the Norris Trophy definition. Voters should be smart enough to see the full value of defensemen who score a lot of points.

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