Here is the July 1 edition of Dan Rosen’s weekly mailbag. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.
What is the most suitable and exciting team in play for Alexis Lafreniere? — @alehtonen
The best story is the Montreal Canadiens getting to select Lafreniere with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, keeping the forward prospect in his home province. That’s the Hallmark story, and it would be an amazing consolation prize for the Canadiens if they lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and then win the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery. Montreal has not had the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft since 1980, when it selected Doug Wickenheiser. The Canadiens could have had Quebec native Denis Savard or Paul Coffey. Lafreniere going to Montreal would be the biggest story of the 2020 draft. It’s too bad he’s not a center, because that’s where the Canadiens have a real need, but getting the chance to have a potential generational talent on the wing would be among the most significant developments for Montreal in a long time.
The Canadiens, who were 31-31-9 (.500 points percentage) before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, are the No. 12 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins (40-23-6, .623) are the No. 5 seed.
What if Lafreniere, who played for Rimouski in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, were to land with the Penguins and potentially get to play with center Sidney Crosby, who also played for Rimouski? The public explosion of opinions would be wild, but the options for Pittsburgh would be amazing. The Penguins could have Lafreniere play with center Evgeni Malkin, keeping forward Jake Guentzel with Crosby. Or what about a line that includes Crosby with Lafreniere and Guentzel? Intriguing. They could have all four plus defenseman Kris Letang on the power play, with Lafreniere potentially shooting from his off wing.
Another intriguing consideration is the Edmonton Oilers losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the qualifiers and then winning the draft lottery. The Oilers (37-25-9, .585) are the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference; the Blackhawks (32-30-8, .514) are the No. 12 seed. A draft lottery win would give Edmonton the No. 1 pick for the fifth time since 2010; it used the previous four picks to draft forward Taylor Hall (2010), center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011), forward Nail Yakupov (2012) and center Connor McDavid (2015). Similar to the Penguins, the Oilers would have great options, including using Lafreniere with McDavid or center Leon Draisaitl. They could each be a part of the power-play unit.
The eight teams that are eliminated from the best-of-5 qualifiers will have a chance to win the No. 1 pick, based on the results of the first drawing for the draft lottery. A second drawing will be held after the qualifiers are completed and before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to determine who will receive the No. 1 pick. Each of the eliminated teams will have a 12.5 percent chance of winning.
Training camps, which are part of Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, are expected to open July 10. When Phase 4 begins, at a date and in two hub cities to be determined, the qualifiers will be played.
If the Arizona Coyotes win the No. 1 pick, do you think a potential trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Auston Matthews is possible? Arizona would get a homegrown star while Toronto gets Alexis Lafreniere, NHL salary cap space to fill in the blue line, and potentially another piece. — @Rob_Oswald
Mind blown. Love it. But I think it’s a fantasy.
If the Coyotes get the No. 1 pick, they’d have to convince the Maple Leafs that Lafreniere has better upside than Matthews, because that’s the crux of the trade proposal you made. But that’s a hard thing to do based on what we know about Matthews and what we don’t know about Lafreniere.
Matthews is averaging 1.01 points per game (285 points in 282 games), including 0.56 goals per game (158 in 282 games) during his NHL career. He likely would have scored 50 goals this season (he had 47 in 70 games) if it hadn’t been paused. He’s 22, four years older than Lafreniere. He’s a center, and the Maple Leafs are in win-now mode with two of the best players in the game at the position: him and John Tavares.
Lafreniere has great upside, but we don’t know if he’s going to turn into a player as impactful as Matthews. He’s also a left wing, and my belief is teams are built through the middle, which is why Toronto is in a great position with Matthews.
I don’t think the Maple Leafs would do it. I think the Coyotes would love it.
Will the NHL have any hurdles to jump over with the lack of noise in the arena? Similar to the Major League Baseball game played in Baltimore with no fans, the players had to watch what they said. The microphones could hear them without a crowd. — @theashcity
It’s a great question and one I never really thought about before you asked it. My initial thought is that a hockey game lends itself to more noise than a baseball game, such as the one played without fans in attendance at Camden Yards between the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox on April 29, 2015. Baseball is clearly a slower, more methodical game that allows for lulls in action, leading to quiet on the field. With that, it’s easier to pick up a singular voice, which is what was happening that day in Baltimore.
Hockey isn’t like that. The skates, the sticks, the pucks, the boards, the posts and the pings, it all creates a soundtrack unique to the game, and I think some of that could drown out voices from players, coaches and referees. I’d be blind to the situation if I said it would drown all of it out, but there are other ways to make the sounds of the game suitable for a television broadcast, potentially including a 7-10 second delay that gives the producers the opportunity to hear something that shouldn’t reach the airwaves and quickly silence that part.
There is the possibility of creating artificial crowd noise, such as what they’re doing for some soccer broadcasts. That’s a divisive issue publicly. I don’t think it’ll be perfect. How could it be without fans in the building? But I’d argue that the broadcasts aren’t perfect when there are fans screaming their heads off and noise is nearly blowing the roof off arenas. Mikes pick up voices. Lips are read. It happens. But I think players, coaches and referees will understand the weight of their voices and how they can carry, and will be mindful of it.
Nils Lundkvist is staying another year in Sweden. Do you think the New York Rangers maybe use him as a trading chip to get a top-four left-handed defenseman for Jacob Trouba given they already have a clog on the right side? — @1994_nyr
Lundkvist, one of the Rangers’ top defenseman prospects, was a first-round pick (No. 28) in the 2018 NHL Draft and is staying in Sweden for one more season to play for Lulea of the Swedish Hockey League. New York’s plans for the 19-year-old should not be afffected by his decision to stay in Sweden, and though your idea of using him as a trading chip to get a left-handed defenseman has merit, there’s a lot to be determined.
A key factor is whether the Rangers plan to keep right-handed defenseman Tony DeAngelo on a long-term basis. DeAngelo is a pending restricted free agent and could sign another one-year contract if he’s not traded. New York also could give him a long-term contract, solidifying his place on the right side with Trouba and Adam Fox and opening the door to potentially move Lundkvist for help on the left side.
I’m still not sold on that, though, because the Rangers have organizational depth on the left side. They already know what they have in Ryan Lindgren, and they’re high on the potential of K’Andre Miller, a first-round pick (No. 22) in the 2018 draft who signed an entry-level contract March 16. Libor Hajek, another left-handed defenseman, has shown flashes of what he can be in 33 NHL games over the past two seasons.
I think decisions on DeAngelo’s future need to come before New York considers any trade possibilities regarding Lundkvist.