NHL Mailbag: Will GMs be any wiser with Seattle expansion?

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Another week of big changes. The Flyers hired a new GM, there’s gonna be a whole 32nd NHL team in a few years, and some teams are suddenly surging.

So as usual, lots to cover as everyone cruises into the area of 30 games. Where does the time go?

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Let’s dig in:

Rhys asks: “Seattle’s expansion draft will happen a full four years after Vegas’. What lessons will GMs have learned (or learned and forgotten) from the last draft?”

Hopefully, for their sake and not Seattle’s, they’ve learned not to give up high-end talent just because it’s a little more expensive than they’d like. I know everyone was roasting Columbus, which needed to get rid of the David Clarkson deal, for giving up Bill Karlsson, but he went from a half-dozen goals as a career high to 40-plus. Tough to see that coming.

Not as tough to see the Marchessault/Smith move as being insanely bad day-of, though. Not to re-litigate it too much, but come on. They sold insanely low on Smith (bad shooting-percentage year) and probably didn’t realize how good either of them were. I guess that’s life.

The other thing to keep in mind is that teams gave up a lot to cap-dump guys, like Anaheim giving Shea Theodore away to free themselves of a Clayton Stoner contract that was regrettable on Day 1. But that’s just a “don’t sign bad contracts” problem, which no one’s getting over before this expansion draft.

Seattle makes 32. (Getty)
Seattle makes 32. (Getty)

Will asks: “How much if any of the Pens problems can be laid on Mike Sullivan?”

Some, obviously.

I don’t think he has much control over who gets injured and whether Matt Murray ever makes a save again, but like a lot of coaches he plays favorites with guys who might not deserve the roles they get (contract or not, Jack Johnson shouldn’t be your No. 3 defenseman), or doesn’t give guys chances they might deserve (the now-traded Daniel Sprong).

The big problem for this club is that they need to get the offense going, and I’m not sure Sullivan or anyone else has the juice to make it happen. A lot of the depth guys on this team just don’t move the needle this year and while some of that is on him it can’t be all of it.

Coaches, even the best ones, can always stand to get better. One imagines Sullivan, being a smart guy, has a pretty good idea of what the problems are, but maybe not how best to address them with this roster.

Brandon asks: “Connor McDavid is the clear No. 1 player in the world. Who are Nos. 2 and 3, and how big is the drop off from McDavid to them?”

At this point I think you’d have to say No. 2 is probably Nathan MacKinnon, right? He has 140 points in his last 102 games, the underlying numbers look pretty good relative to the rest of the team, and it seems like he’s just gonna be able to do this for a while.

As for No. 3, well, you probably still have to go with Crosby, don’t you? Another 14-15-29 in 23 games this year and he’s not exactly getting a ton of help roster-wise, like I said. His most common linemates are Jake Guentzel and Dominik Simon, and while both those guys are perfectly fine players, they’re also not the kinds of players you should generally aim to put next to the best player of his generation.

I mean, that’s a long-standing complaint I’ve had for poor ol’ Sid, but y’know.

Michael asks: “What is keeping Carlyle in Anaheim (if it’s anything other than Gibson)?”

No it’s just Gibson, dude. And maybe Getzlaf and Rakell.

This team is sitting on a .927 save percentage in all situations and they’ve only scored 68 goals in 29 games. They’ve given up 261 more shots than they’ve taken. In 29 games.

I know league-wide save percentages are down this year, but if they were even remotely league-average goaltending, they’d have given up an additional 12 or 13 goals so far this year. It would make their goal difference minus-26 instead of the current minus-13, which by the way stinks.

If they even come close to the playoffs and Gibson keeps this up, he should be the league MVP. Not taking additional questions at this time.

Matt asks via email: “What sort of D-man would represent the base line of what could launch the Leafs to being Cup favorites?”

Worth noting that the offense is so good that it might not even matter that they don’t have a great defense, but let’s go with the premise and, without saying “PK Subban” or “Erik Karlsson,” find a fit that might actually be available and affordable as a rental.

Obviously the Leafs aren’t likely to pull a guy on an expiring deal who’s also a legit top-pair defender. There really aren’t any whose deals are coming up this summer, with the exception of both Anton Stralman and Erik Karlsson, but both their teams are gonna avoid selling since they’ll be in the playoffs and need all hands on deck.

So that leaves you with options like Tyler Myers, Alex Edler, Marc Methot, etc. They’re not gonna make a difference for you. Or at least not the kind of difference you might need to be considered for-sure better than Nashville and Tampa.

That’s just how the UFA D market works, man. Sorry. But yeah I mean if they can get Karlsson they should do it. Why not.

Gabriel asks: “Based on current cap situation and farm system, which middle of the pack teams should blow it up immediately?”

I’ll just rattle off a couple here with varying positions in the standings right now: The Ducks, the Devils, the Wild, the Flyers.

You might say the Devils are already in a rebuild and I guess that’s true but if I’m them I’m trading Taylor Hall instead of signing him at a $10-million AAV for his age-29-to-36 seasons or whatever. The core of that team really isn’t any good at all and it’s starting to look like they’re gonna get another high pick this year. We’ll talk about them more in a minute, though.

The other team I’d say here, and it’ll never happen because of the market and all that, but the Habs. I guess they’re doing a rebuild-on-the-fly thing but they already have a pretty good system if I remember right, and if you can sell Tatar, Shaw, Gallagher, Weber, Price, Byron, Petry, etc. — basically everyone who’s over 25 and signed long-term, I think that’s a big benefit in the long run.

But that might be better advice for, like, two years ago. That division is a meat grinder and this group ain’t getting far in it as currently constituted.

David asks via email: “What happened to the Devils?”

They were always bad but Taylor Hall and Keith Kinkaid tricked people into thinking they weren’t. They’re not tricking people anymore. That’s it.

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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