Puck Daddy Bag of Mail: Which teams are a Tavares away from the Cup?

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Would joining the Sharks being the fastest route to the Cup for <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/4681/" data-ylk="slk:John Tavares">John Tavares</a>? (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
Would joining the Sharks being the fastest route to the Cup for John Tavares? (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

This is certainly the busiest time of the year in hockey in terms of crazy stuff happening.

The draft just happened, so did Hall of Fame calls. Free agency is days away — and the negotiating period is already underway — and trades are happening left and right. Fun to think about everything that’s happening, but also not always easy to keep up.

In large part of because of all that’s going on, I got a ton of questions this week so I’m gonna try to quick-hit my way through as many as possible. Plus I got some fun ones.

Let’s get right to it:

Angie asks: “What are the Sharks chances of winning the Cup if they land Tavares?”

Pretty good. Tough to forget that an expansion team without a No. 1 defenseman easily got out of their division like two months ago. If you then go, “Well it’s them versus the winner of the Central,” I mean I can see that going either way but if you’re a pretty good choice to come out of your division you’re a pretty good choice to go two more rounds after that.

Worth noting, too, that even if they sign Tavares, the Sharks still have plenty of cap space to add someone else who’s going to be able to make a difference, too.

They would instantly be the heavy favorite to win that division. And that matters a ton these days.

Casey asks: “Do the Penguins need to make a move this offseason to really contend? If so, how big?

I don’t think so. They have a lot of talent on the roster (though certainly less now that they traded Hunwick and Sheary to free up cap space and make a run at Jack Johnson).

Johnson, by the way, is a total waste of money. He’s awful. Was getting healthy-scratched by Columbus last year and it wasn’t because Columbus had a surfeit of top talent on the blue line. And to give him a five-year deal at any cap hit, at 31 years old, is beyond dumb. You might as well throw $3.5 million a year in the toilet.

Anyway, this was a 100-point team with its starting goalie only playing 49 games and going .907. It’s fine.

Erik asks: “Going into free agency, for which team would you most want to be general manager, and why?”

San Jose or Vegas. I wanna be able to play with cap room and not worry about the implications a year or two from now. As mentioned above, they also both play in a crap division so I’d probably look like a genius for doing almost anything.

Mike asks: “What HHOF pick would get the most people mad? Sean Avery?”

I mean sure.

Matt Cooke. Tom Wilson. Name a recent-history hockey villain who in no way deserves to make the Hall and you’ll piss plenty of people off. But among guys who have a borderline case, I can see a lot of people being pissed off about Chris Osgood.

But here’s one for ya: Gary Bettman. I bet that would really piss people off.

Duncan asks: “Why are the two Lockout Kings, Bettman and Jeremy Jacobs, both in the HHOF as ‘builders’?

If you hang around the league and wield some amount of influence long enough, the old white guys who vote on these things will always let you in. Think about what they respect: Power, first and foremost. Can’t say those guys didn’t have a lot of power over the league in the past two-plus decades.

Other Lockout Kings, to use your term, like Murray Edwards and Craig Leipold probably won’t get in, so that’s nice.

Nick asks: “Can’t you pretty easily make a case for Tavares to Bruins if he cares equally about money and winning? Can make slightly more after-tax in Tampa and Dallas but Tampa would have a hell of a time getting him under cap without really shaking things up and Dallas is not the place to win?”

Dallas is the team I truly don’t understand him being interested in if his goal is to win any time soon, but to your point about the amount of money he could earn there or in Tampa, it’s not “slightly more.”

TSN’s handy Tavares Calculator shows it’s about $425,000 per season on a seven-year deal with a $10 million AAV, which isn’t nothing.

The Bruins are a team where Tavares can (probably) win in the near future, especially if Boston can, say, catapult David Backes into the sun, but Tampa and San Jose offer equally attractive short-term paths, for me. I don’t think, however, Toronto is a Tavares away from competing. We’ll see what else Dubas has planned I guess.

Tom asks: “Assuming Tavares stays with NYI, what is the quickest way for them to get better? The free agent market for D and goalies seem bad. The Trotz D system could help but feels like more is needed.”

If I were Lou I would have tried to get a deal together for Grubauer because goaltending is a huge problem. Their D stinks but I’m not really sure what they can do about it aside from develop guys or wait until next year.

This team is a mess. There’s no quick fix.

Jarrod asks: “With two years left in the 2010s, which six players are currently on your all-decade team?”

Real quick here (and I don’t care that Malkin isn’t a RW):

Ovechkin – Crosby – Malkin

Karlsson – Chara

Lundqvist

Have a good one.

DMachetto asks: “Should Mark Stone: 1) take one-year arbitration award and then walk as UFA, 2) sign a huge offer sheet in hopes Ottawa won’t match, 3) demand immediate trade and threaten if not traded now to sign huge one-year offer sheet (which functions as full NTC) and walk as UFA, or 4) other?”

Something between 1 and 4, I think.

Unfortunately workers in this league don’t have a lot of rights and I don’t think he should sit out. So what he should probably do is say he will only sign a one-year deal for short money (but more than his arbitration award) and then try to force a trade mid-season.

That’s what I’d do anyway. I don’t know that you can trust Ottawa to trade you this summer because they really need to get to the cap floor.

John asks: “Who are the top 10 defensemen in the world right now?”

Well John, you’re being crappy because you didn’t like that I said Dougie Hamilton was a top-10 defenseman the other day, but sure, I’ll play along.

In some particular order and mostly just off the top of my head: Karlsson, Hedman, Subban, Doughty, Burns, Klingberg, Giordano, Hamilton, Ekman-Larsson, Letang. Certainly something along those lines, and I’d be willing to listen to arguments for like, Jones, Werenski, Lindholm, etc.

You’re gonna cry about this too so whatever.

Nicholas asks: “Who are the three players you would have drafted had you been the Rangers’ GM?

Just off the top of my head? Evan Bouchard, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Noah Dobson.

Glen asks: “Do you think Joey Anderson makes the Devils this year, or do you think he’ll spend a year in the AHL before he’s ready?”

I know we all like to overrate our favorite teams’ prospects but c’mon man. He’s an AHLer for sure. He wasn’t close to being a point-a-game player in college last season. Guys don’t make teams without that kind of lower-level production.

Well actually, lemme walk that back: If he makes the Devils out of camp, that’s a reflection on the Devils and not the player.

CF asks: “What are the realistic destinations for Panarin and do you think he actually gets traded?”

Basically anyone who’s in on Tavares and doesn’t get him should target him, but I don’t think he gets traded. Remember, the language was he doesn’t want to sign “right now” or something to that effect, so he’s not ruling out an extension with Columbus and they’re gonna work hard to accommodate him because of his talent.

The Blue Jackets will probably — and definitely should — flip some of their other bad contracts before a last-resort decision to trade their best forward by far.

Jim asks: “Who do you think has had the best and worst of seasons so far? Who might be just a move or two away from contending?”

Best offseason so far is probably Buffalo, and I’m sure they’re not done. They got a useful winger and defenseman for a mid-round pick, which who cares, and a franchise defenseman. That doesn’t mean they’re even remotely close to contending but they’ve improved a lot.

As for who’s a move or two away, like I said above: San Jose. Also Toronto. For a dark horse pick, gimme Edmonton, but it would have to be a BIG couple of moves.

Chris asks: “Did Matt Cullen have a good hockey career? What do people outside the state of Minnesota think?”

He played 1,445 career games. He had a great career. Hell, if you play the 160 games you need to get a pension, you had a great career.

But I mean, only 26 players in league history played more games than Matt Cullen. That’s incredible.

Trevor asks: “If Tavares actually leaves the Islanders, do you think that makes it more likely other big UFAs might do the same? Is that better or worse for the league?

First question: Nah. Second question: Neither.

Players are always going to choose what’s best for them individually. People didn’t start sticking with their old teams because Stamkos did, or leaving when Chara did way back when, so people won’t start jumping if Tavares does.

The way hockey’s CBA works certainly incentivizes guys to stay home, but at the end of the day players like Stamkos and Tavares are unique because they’re elite talents in a sport where those kinds of guys don’t hit the open market.

I’m on the record as liking the idea of an NHL super team but the emergence of Golden State, for example, is not why the NBA is insanely popular now. If we got Tavares on the Penguins or something, that wasn’t going to make everyone watch hockey. Sports grow organically, for the most part, so that’s that.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy 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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