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 (3:02 PM)
We're getting EJ!
Buzzmaster (3:11 PM)
Bill (Pasadena, CA.)
Hi EJ, If the Kings are truly out of the Kovy sweepstakes, and it looks like they are, what do they do next, to try and improve the team?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
To me, they are on the right track. They have drafted pretty well. They are developing young guys. When you think about it, they have a legit No. 1 center in Kopitar. A legit No. 1 defenseman in Doughty. And two good young goaltenders. Those are the core parts of your team now and going forward. They have those blocks in place. They also have some nice young complementary pieces in their organization. I think you might look at the whole thing with Kovalchuk in a few years from now and decide that you're glad he didn't come to L.A. You'll have flexibility. If New Jersey were to sign him, there will be players they have to move. There are still a number of good secondary free agents out there that teams can bring in. The Kings are going in the right direction. It's not the end of the world that they didn't get him. It's a matter of patience. The pieces they have are good.
Josh S. (Philly)
Hey EJ, do you see Leighton being the Flyers starting goalie come start of next season?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
Hmmmmm...that's a great question. It's hard to say because there have been a lot of rumors of the Flyers moving Gagne to free up some cap room and opening up room for another goalie. I think more than likely that he or Boucher will be the guy on opening night. But here on July 6, there is some time for teams to make moves. I wouldn't rule out them making another kind of move to do something else in goal.
How do you think the experiment with Staal or Malking moving to the wing will go, and which of the two is best suited for this change?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
Another good question. I would think that Staal would make sense to go to the wing. When you have two dynamic guys like Malkin and Crosby, when you can split them up like that you create so many strategic advantages. You could go out and find a third center at a reasonable price. Crosby and Malkin could easily play 40-50 minutes which leaves not much time out there for a third center. It depends on what they can do between now and the season. There are still some talented wingers, some secondary players, that could really maximize what they can do with a center like Crosby or Malkin.
Tom Slaten (Milton WI)
I am very saddened to here about the passing of Bobby Probert. My question is this do you think the Blackhawks will be favored to win another Stanley Cup with the trades they are making since winning this one>
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
The Blackhawks kept their core together. From that standpoint, they'll be good. Will they be as good as this year? Probably not. But will they be positioned as a team that can win next year and for the next several years? That is where they're at. They had a couple of bad contracts that limited what they could do. Overall, I think they got quite a bit from a group of players that everyone knew they had to move. It's sad to see guys go whom you've won with, but they've positioned themselves well.
big m (st. louis)
hey ej, any luck or news with the blues signing halak?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
Yeah, he signed a four-year contract today. His cap hit is $3.75 million. That makes sense for where he is at in his career. I think that number makes sense. St. Louis is hoping that he's a guy that can come in and play 60 games for them and play at the high level that he showed in the playoffs and the Olympics. Now, we'll have to see if he can continue to play at a certain level and continue to grow.
Jason (Long Island, NY)
Distraught Rangers fan here. While other teams are improving, the Rangers seemingly have regressed minus getting a decent backup for Hank. Any signs of hope approaching or is another non playoff season going to occur?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
I think there's some hope. The kid they just signed from Wisconsin is a pretty good center. Maybe he's going to be a guy that's going to solidify a position. That's a positive. Some of their players are growing and getting better. I think there's room to be optimistic. The problem is how good can some of these young guys be. Are they really going to be able at some point to fill these holes? There is reason to be optimistic. It's slow growth. They don't have a dynamic prospect in the organization. They don't have those, but they have guys who can be good young players with the Rangers and help the team.
Does Chicago's firesale of players after winning the cup highlight Ray Shero's job of keeping the core Penguin players signed to reasonable long term deals?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
I think Ray Shero's done an excellent job with that franchise. He walked into a great situation with those players. One way I judge managers is what contracts they sign players to. Looking at their roster, they don't have any contract that's untradeable. If you have contracts you can trade, you'll always have flexibility. Chicago can't do much with Brian Campbell's contract. They spent too much money and now it's one that you really can't move. You have to do other things. Shero has done a good job of managing players and getting them for a value that makes sense for the team and player.
Are the Lightning getting better? Are they a playoff team again yet?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
The Lightning slowly are getting better. You have a new GM and a new owner and are walking into a situation that was really quite a mess. The previous ownership group had a lot of problems. There was a clash of agendas and a lack of stability. Yzerman has made some interesting moves. He's moved out some bad contracts. They were able to open up some money and give an extension to St. Louis. It was a little risky because of his age, but if there's anyone that's earned an extension it's him. The Lightning are moving in the right direction. They're going to be right on the bubble to challenge. It will depend on what they do from now until October. They do have some high end players on their roster. They need to find some bargains to fill out their roster.
Josh S. (Philly)
What are the chances Carter or Gagne get traded this off-season?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
It seems like the chances that Gagne get moved is higher. He's appealing to other teams. There's not a long committment in place. If there are any issues going forward, the teams aren't obligated past next year. There are mixed signals on Carter.
Hey EJ. Do you see Tomas Kaberle in a Maple Leafs jersey on october 7th?
EJ Hradek (3:33 PM)
No. Eventually, it seems like the Leafs are going to move him. I don't know if it's the best thing. I like him and I think it would give Toronto a better defense if they kept him. But it seems like he's been in the discussion over the last couple of years. If you're asking me now, I get the sense that eventually he will be traded. It's hard to say because his name has been in the trade rumors for nearly two years. We'll have to see how it plays out.
Did the glut of D-men signed last week help or hurt Kaberle's trade value? Any word on where he may go?
EJ Hradek (3:35 PM)
I think what happens is this: teams are interested in Kaberle, but they feel like they don't need to trade anything off their roster until they go through the free agent process. Now that a lot of the top end defensemen have signed, I think the value of Kaberle goes up. Those teams will now be in a more urgent need to get him. It's really a case of the market playing itself out through these different stages.
Any news on the B's trying to move Thomas or Savard?
EJ Hradek (3:37 PM)
It's been quiet. I just think they'll have a hard time moving Thomas, just because of the nature of the goalie market. There are some veteran guys out there and teams are not interested in paying anything near where Thomas' contract is. I don't see him getting moved unless there's more to a deal. As for Savard, it's been quiet the last few days, but that might be because of the holiday weekend. Quietly, if there's a reasonable deal for the Bruins, they'll start to talk and it will pick up steam in the next few weeks. They'll be able to easier make a deal for Savard than for Thomas.
EJ Hradek (3:37 PM)
Thanks for all the great questions. Talk to you guys soon.