Mailbag: Who is the most underpaid player in the NHL?

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We are now officially in the Month of Trades.

The Predators kept the ball rolling yesterday by acquiring a just-okay fourth-line center and the worst player in the league, but indicated they may not be done yet. Many other trades are likely to follow, and at least the Auston Matthews news will keep everyone in Toronto occupied for a minute or two.

So people want to know: What do teams need? What can they expect for the rest of the season?

We can just get into all that now:

Kishore asks: “With the Mess in the West — i.e. the Wild Cards with negative goal difference — which two would be the most entertaining result, and which two would be the worst?”

The most entertaining would be Anaheim, which as I write this is in that horrid four-way tie with Arizona, Edmonton, and Chicago. The first two of those teams have one fewer game played. The Ducks would be entertaining because of how bad they are and I would absolutely love to see how many shots San Jose or Calgary could put up on them in what would probably be a five-game series at the absolute maximum.

The other entertaining team would be Colorado because every game would be 4-3 or 5-4.

As for the two worst teams, just from a “having to hear about it” perspective, it’s gotta be Edmonton and Chicago. Absolutely no thanks. You just want them to get good enough that they miss the playoffs by a point and screw up their draft positions.

Joe asks: “Is there a reasonable trade the Sabres can make this year that makes them better next year and helps convince Skinner to stay?”

Everyone on Earth knows they need a defenseman — they need more forwards too, but first things first here — and considering what Toronto gave up for Jake Muzzin, it might not be a high-end one.

Not that a first and two middling prospects is a ton to give away for a strong No. 2 who’s signed very affordably for next year as well, but Buffalo can’t be giving away its first-round pick given the likelihood it misses the playoffs.

The problem, then, is that leaves you with, like, Scott Harrington or Patrik Nemeth, who aren’t sexy names or high-scoring defensemen by any stretch but are solid contributors in the right situation.

You don’t want to commit to someone too expensive and you don’t want to give up a first-rounder, so I’m not sure there’s anyone who both fits that mold and also gets Jeff Skinner to buy in long-term.

Sasha asks: “Who is the most underpaid player, Gaudreau or MacKinnon?”

I think it’s probably MacKinnon but you can make an argument for David Pastrnak even before Gaudreau.

He has 30 goals (again) and 64 points (already) in just 53 games. Man, what a great contract. But yeah, Gaudreau and MacKinnon took some ill-advised deals insofar as they traded capital-S Security for a bigger payday on a shorter deal. That said, Nylander hadn’t reset the market yet.

Hell, Connor McDavid is underpaid. That’s how it used to be. That’s not how it is anymore.

Matt asks: “Is it too early to say that Arizona maybe gave up on Dylan Strome a bit too hastily?”

It’s amazing what playing with actual high-end players does for a guy’s production, huh? He’s up to 24 points in 30 games since the trade, and wouldn’t you know it, Patrick Kane has gotten in on 15 of those points. Interesting coincidence.

That’s not to say Strome isn’t helping Kane score at rates he hasn’t reached since his MVP season, because Strome always had skill, but when you give talented guys someone they can play with, it’s so weird how often they end up scoring a lot.

So yeah, Arizona gave up a little early but only because it didn’t really have anyone even close to Kane’s level. Maybe Clayton Keller becomes that one day, but Strome, I guess, couldn’t wait around to find out.

John asks: “Please talk about the Avalanche goaltending situation. The team’s underlying numbers are great but they can’t win. WTF?”

This is barely a question but the very last thing at the end saved you.

Yeah, obviously Colorado has that great offense (well, that great line I guess), but I would quibble with the idea that their possession numbers are “great,” especially when MacKinnon and Co. are off the ice. The Avs are 12th in 5-on-5 shot attempts — and barely above water — as well as 18th in high-danger chances. And that’s with an elite top line.

But yeah, obviously the goaltending stinks this year: An even .900 isn’t gonna cut it, and it’s probably cost Colorado about 12 goals, or four points in the standings. And jeez, they could really use those four points given how rotten the West is.

You can wonder if Varlamov is cooked, but he was dynamite last year. You can wonder if the change of scenery didn’t help Grubauer. But given the state of the bottom two-thirds of the team’s roster — look at how many penalties they’ve given up this year — I’m not sure I think it’s all their fault. It might just be one of those things.

Jack asks: “It will never happen because GMs are stupid, but if you’re the Islanders how fast do you sign Mitch Marner to an offer sheet this summer?”

I bet you can get Sebastian Aho for cheaper.

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Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.

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