Puck Daddy Bag of Mail: Expectations for Rinne; Shattenkirk's final destination

ANAHEIM, CA – MAY 12: Goaltender Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators takes a drink from his water bottle during a break in play of Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on May 12, 2017 in Anaheim, California. The Predators defeated the Ducks 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Hey everyone, with the NCAA season over, it’s time to roll out a new feature for the summer. It’s a mailbag column. People love those.

Okay it’s another mailbag. Things are chugging along in the conference finals, and crazy as it is to say we’re really very close to the season being over.

That always fills me with a weird kind of existential dread, I have to admit. If I’m not watching hockey most nights, what am I even doing? I imagine that’s what, like 75 percent of Canadians feel like, once they all get off the Ottawa Senators bandwagon.

Just kidding. No one cares about the Senators. Anyway, question time:

Rian Shaefer asks:

Is it harder to obtain a No. 1 D or a No. 1 center?”

Obviously this comes with the caveat that they are both difficult to acquire, but it’s all about the scarcity of the resource.

While there are technically 30 No. 1 centers and defensemen in the NHL, players who meet the various criteria we think of as being No. 1s are obviously harder to come by. Is Rasmus Ristolainen an actual No. 1 defenseman in the vein of a Zdeno Chara or even Hampus Lindholm (who still doesn’t get as much credit as he should for being an elite defender)? Obviously not. Is he a No. 1 defender because Buffalo doesn’t have anyone better? Yeah.

Same for centers. Travis Zajac was New Jersey’s No. 1 pivot, but any half-decent team would at least have him on the second line, if not deeper in the lineup.

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With all this in mind, I would say it’s probably harder to get a No. 1 center because at least with defenders you can get a guy with a lot of talent on either side of the ice, as long as you’re not trying to fill a need. Those guys just don’t get traded (unless they’re P.K. Subban) or hit the open market (unless they’re Chara).

Defensemen are such a hot commodity in the NHL these days that you need to trade Taylor Hall to get an okay No. 2. It’s wild.

TJ Peterson asks:

“What should we expect from Rinne in the rest of the playoffs?”

People seem to have gotten a bit scared by Game 2 against Anaheim, in which Rinne gave up four goals for the first time in these playoffs. It was only the third time in 12 games he gave up more than three.

And hey, it happens.

I think we can all agree that he’s probably not going to keep going .940-plus for the rest of this postseason, but even if he settles down quite a bit in the next handful of games, going from outstanding to merely very good, that’s going to keep Nashville in a good position to win this series.

Let’s be honest: Just about everything went right for Anaheim in Game 2, and that’s not likely to continue either.

As long as Rinne is .920 or so, the Predators are going to be in a good position to win. Let’s not forget, John Gibson was only .909 and the Ducks got outshot by a decent margin in that game (minus-6).

This is a Preds team that’s good enough to win even without top-flight goaltending, so the odds Rinne completely tanks it are slim.

Paul Lang asks:

“Will Jim Benning see out the rebuild?”

Most GMs don’t see out their rebuilds when they’re the ones who started them, and the Canucks really do seem to want to win sooner than later even despite this newfound commitment to maybe not being good next year. On purpose this time.

With Benning in particular, though, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be around for much longer. He wasn’t brought in for a rebuild in the first place. This organization thought he would make them competitive. It’s tough to see how he lasts long-term since they thought he’d be getting into the playoffs every year.

John Payerchin asks:

“How should the Penguins handle their goalie situation? Do you see any landing spots for Fleury?”

You gotta get rid of Fleury. He’s older and more expensive. I know he’s Sid’s buddy but that can’t be any sort of guiding principle for the franchise.

The obvious move is to hope he gets claimed in the expansion draft, but if that doesn’t work (which I still think it will) you have to find a trade partner. Does Calgary want him to be their 1a the next two years? I can see that. Maybe Winnipeg?

The weird thing is that most teams all of a sudden seem fairly locked-in goaltending-wise, so there just aren’t as many options as there were even last summer when it comes to teams shopping for help. You probably can’t even pawn him off on a team like Arizona that would normally delight in taking on money to hit the cap floor in exchange for a pick or a prospect.

With that in mind, I can see the Penguins just kind of figuring they’re stuck with him for next season, unpleasant as that might be. That would obviously hurt their chances to re-sign a bunch of guys (they need defense badly) but it might be what they’re stuck with.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 23: Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the Washington Capitals skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at Verizon Center on March 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Matt asks:

“Where do you think Shattenkirk is going to land, and can he be a No. 1?”

The problem with this question is that a lot of teams who would need a player like Kevin Shattenkirk either have too much money committed to defensemen right now (the Rangers, for example), or will need to give out huge contracts in the next few years (Toronto and Edmonton).

But to that end, one team I think would be a great destination for him has a need on the blue line, a relatively solid core coming back without too many guys to re-sign, and relatively little in the way of long-term commitments. They also happen to have a new GM who will have cash to spend and whose old team was apparently in heavy pursuit for Shattenkirk’s services before the trade that took him to Washington.

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Yeah, the Buffalo Sabres could really use a puck-mover. Shattenkirk would instantly be their best defender.

And I think they can make the money work unless the player asks for the moon here. They only have $50 million committed for next season, with only a handful of RFAs to re-sign this summer, and only Robin Lehner should be particularly expensive. Yeah, you have to cut Jack Eichel a big contract for 2018-19 and beyond, but other than that, there’s not a huge hurdle to overcome here.

Buffalo should absolutely do this. Wonder if Shattenkirk, who by the way is from New York originally (but like, Westchester), would be interested.

David asks:

“What should Vegas’ real goals be with their expansion draft? Should they be good enough to draw fans, have cap room to trade, get vets for three years, etc.?”

Yeah I think they should try to acquire a veteran core that’s signed for the next few years, but that also kinda sucks and therefore is going to guarantee them a few high picks in the next few years. The fans will be there because it’s Vegas and one imagines attendance absolutely won’t be a problem, or at least, selling tickets won’t be.

The goal here should absolutely be to take bad contracts afterward, via trade, to accumulate the assets to build a meaningfully competitive team through the draft and prospect trades. No team is going to let you get an actual good player, which is why I think this team will kinda suck. That should be the goal anyway.

The NHL’s insistence on making this team Competitive right away was always confusing to me. The goal for this team should be to lose every game 3-2 or 4-3. You’re right there but you’re still not good enough to get anywhere except the draft lottery.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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