Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine's EJ Hradek will stop by to chat about the NHL season.
Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.
Keep up with what Hradek has been up to through his blog on ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join EJ to chat Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:00 PM)
EJ Hradek will be here in a few minutes to take your NHL questions!
Mike (St. Louis)
Is there any chance the Blues kick the tires on Kovalchuk? I understand we're a smaller market NHL team, but if the Blues could get sell outs last year without a premier player, the ticket sales would definitely be there if they signed Kovalchuk.
EJ Hradek (3:04 PM)
There's a chance they might have a conversation. The Blues right now are going through a re-organization in their ownership. When you have a situation like that, the purse strings might be tighter than they usually are. They've done a great job of building the team through the draft the last few years. The need for them continues to be center, as opposed to the wing. They might make a phone call, but I really don't see them as a big player. But you're theory of a big name and selling tickets, I'm sure is one that the business people in St. Louis might be interested in. But at the end of the day, winning consistently is what brings people in. I don't know if the circumstances in St. Louis will lead to that.
Doug (Maumee, Ohio)
Hey EJ, Do you see the Red Wings making and sort of splash in free agency this off-season? They have alot of long term deals on their roster, but do they have any cap room?
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
They don't really have any cap space to do anything significant. They might be looking for some bargain players, later on, after the first wave of free agents pass through. I don't see them making a big splash, no.
What do you think of the moves the Hwawks have made to clear cap space?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
I think they've been great. You don't want to lose anybody if you don't have to. I'm sure they would have liked to have kept all of those players. But they got a first round pick, second round pick, a prospect that was in the top 50 last year. They've really done an excellent job so far.
All the Rangers have to show from the last 6 1st round picks is Mark Staal? Any idea how Sather and his scouting staff keep their jobs? With a track record so bad how do you rationalize taking a "reach" with the 10th pick in the draft? The current squad didn't have enough talent to make the playoffs last year. Your thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
The jury is still out on some of the picks they've made the last few years. They have some talented guys who they've drafted that are in the pipelines. They haven't had a first, second or third overall pick when they've blundered picks. They've made some moves to draft goalies high the last 10 years that haven't worked out. They're fortunate that Lundqvist was a late round pick that really turned out for them. They have drafted some players that are helpful players on their team. I think their drafting record is somewhere in the middle of the pack. Looking at the organization, they haven't really gone out and secured guys that have come in and become cornerstone guys.
Jon (Haslett, MI)
Mike Modano won't be back in Dallas next season. Is this a mistake? There are many young players in Dallas who could benefit from his veteran experience.
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
This is the issue that all franchises and great players come to at some point in their relationship, no matter how long their relationship has been. It's kind of sad that they made the announcement that they're going in another direction. Right now in Dallas, they just don't have a role for Mike. I think Mike can still play in the league. He's a terrifica athlete and can still be a helpful player. Maybe he can go to a franchise that's closer to winning and has a role for him. I heard from some people that the Caps were interested in acquiring him at the trade deadline. But that will be a decision that Mike will have to make for himself. I hope he finds a spot somewhere.
Brian (Boston, MA)
What do you make of the Bruins moves so far? Are the any suitors out there for Thomas? What can Savard give us in return and does it make sense to shop him?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
I think it would be real hard for the Bruins to trade Thomas, because of his contract and the number of goalies on the market starting Thursday. Teams could find other goalies without surrendering any compensation. And you'd also be taking on a long contract and a big cap hit. He's only one year removed from winning the trophy for the best goalie in the league.
Who are the five fastest skaters in the NHL?
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
That's a good question. I haven't thought about it lately, so it's hard for me off the top of my head. Acceleration wise, Ovechkin has great acceleration. Parise has great speed. There are a lot of guys now who can really wheel and go. There is a difference between acceleration and long striding speed. And there's a difference with and without the puck. It's a key element of the game right now. Teams that have it will be more successful these days.
Isles a playoff team this year?
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
If I had to answer right now on June 29, I would say no. I think they're a team that will try to add some value through free agency. Some of their guys are very young and their development is continuing. The big key for them is will Rick DiPietro be able to play? The Islanders have been competitive over the last couple of years, but if you're asking me if they're in, I say now.
EJ- Was Mikael Granlund a steal for the Wild at 9? Also, they showed him as LW on Versus during the draft, but the ESPN draft prospect list shows him as a Center. Is he that versatile or is he a dedicated Center. Minnesota needs a Center real bad.
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
I don't know if he was a steal. Talking to scouts, they liked his competitive nature. He's got some size. He's not tall. There were some scouts concerned about his skating. In Europe it's a little bit of a different game. They were real happy with the pick. He's a competitive guy. Their scouting staff was convinced that he was the guy.
Team that did the best in the draft?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
Obviously, Boston and Edmonton got who we thought were the two best picks. They did well. I really like what happened with St. Louis. I don't see these kids play as much, so it's hard for me to have my own judgement, but I talked to some of the scouts. St. Louis really likes the guys they picked. We could look back in a couple of years and really like what they did in the draft.
how long do you think until the Red Wings are legit contenders again?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
They have never really left that spot for me. They had some injuries this past season and other hurdles that they had to overcome. They still made it to the second round and lost to San Jose. The Red wings are trouble for whoever they play
Jason (Long Island, NY)
EJ, love you work! Thoughts on the Rangers recent developments. Drafting a tough defenseman over other quality players still available in the draft in round 1? Being far away from signing Marc Staal? Any light at the end of the tunnel?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
Every team makes up their own lists. They watch the players. They have internal debates. They figure out their organizational needs. They really like him. They're the ones that have to walk up to the podium, say the kid's name and claim the player. They think he can become a real, big, tough, nasty defenseman. The thing to consider is the Rangers play in a conference that have a lot of big time players. 4-5 years from now fans might look at it as a really nice pick. Only time will tell if they're right.
Ali Nagib (Chicago)
Any reason to think at this point, barring major injuries, that the Hawks won't be contenders the next 5 years or so? And are there any other teams in the league that can really even claim to be in a better position in the short-to-medium term?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
I don't think so. Most teams, good teams, get into these circumstances, have a core of good players. I expect the Hawks to be very competitive every year and be a contender. I don't know if their roster will be any better than it was this year. This is a team that has a real strong core. I suspsect the Blackhawks will be a tough team to deal with for several years to come.
Jason (LI, NY)
Who did the worse in the draft?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
I think it's really, really hard to say, for me, especially since I don't see all of the players. I go by what the scouts and executives tell me and sometimes there can be an agenda in what they're saying. You're talking about 17, 18 year old players in some cases. We don't know how they'll develop. There could be some late bloomers. The teams, to me, that can be disappointed are the teams without a first round pick. They didn't have those opportunities to add a good young player to the organization.
Where does Philly go from here? They were dreadful on faceoffs all playoffs and the netminders came up short again. What's their outlook for next season?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
I don't know if they were dreadful throughout the playoffs. I'm sure they could have been better in certain areas. They went all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. The key issue is the goaltending. Paul Holmgren has already reached out to two veteran goaltenders and is looking to talk to them. There's no question that they'll try to sign a goalie in the next 72 hours. I don't know how you're anything but thrilled if you're a fan of the Flyers. They will have to deal with the hangover of being int he Finals and not winning. It's hard for teams who lose to come back and do well the following year.
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
Free agent frenzy on Thursday. Lock up the house and make sure everything is locked down. These GMs are coming to help their teams.