Chat with Katie Strang
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, hockey writer Katie Strang stops by to chat about the latest news from around the ice.
Strang is a graduate of Michigan State University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
Send your questions now and join Strang Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET!
Katie Strang (2:00 PM)
Hope you all had a great holiday weekend. Can't think of a better way to shake the last of the gluttonous fog than with some much-needed hockey talk. School is in session and hockey is just around the corner.Game on!
Katie, There has been a lot of talk about possible expansion. How soon do you think it will be when two more teams are added to give each conference 16 teams?
Katie Strang (2:02 PM)
I think it is reasonable to expect the expansion of at least 1-2 teams in the next five years. Though the NHL aims to be prudent timing-wise, the lure of expansion fees are mighty enticing. Having balance between conferences could also alleviate some headaches, further bolstering the appeal
Garrett, IL [via mobile]
I noticed that Joni Pitkanen is still available. Is he still injured? Could a team like Detroit, Calgary, or any others snag him on the cheap? Would it be worth while for them?
Katie Strang (2:04 PM)
Good question, Garrett. Pitkanen is indeed coming back from injury, a shattered heel which sidelined him for the entirety of last season. He reportedly told a Finnish outlet recently that he is still recovering from the injury, but he did not sound overly optimistic when it came to a timetable. Would be a huge gamble for any team considering the situation
Clark W Griswold Jr (WallyWorld-America's Family Fun Park)
Blues...better, worse, or about the same as last year?
Katie Strang (2:05 PM)
Better. I think their playoff exit will sting, but in a productive way. That will be a bitter memory that Hitch should be able to exploit expertly. And signing Statsny was obviously huge.
if Garth Snow does make a move for a defenseman, who is he likely to target? Any truth to the rumor Torey Krug won't be signing long term with the Bruins?
Katie Strang (2:07 PM)
Torey Krug has essentially zero leverage when it comes to the Bruins. Do not believe he has arbitration rights or the ability to sign an offer sheet. I do believe the Bruins have to trade a defenseman, but Krug won't be the guy. Too useful to the team, particularly on the power play
Katie, with all of this expansion talk, is there any hope of the Whalers coming back to Hartford?
Katie Strang (2:07 PM)
I don't think that is among the front-runners, no.
Dan Koz (Holyoke, MA)
What needs to be done/who needs to be moved in order for the Bruins to re-sign Torey Krug and Reilly Smith and still be under the cap? How does Savard's contract exception factor into this?
Katie Strang (2:09 PM)
Koz, my understanding is that Savard's annual salary comes off the overage figure once the season starts, per the long-term injury provisions. Still, the Bruins remain in a tight spot with the cap. They'll need to move out a defensemen -- perhaps Bartkowski or Boychuk -- but would ideally like to make a hockey trade. Need help on the right wing
Katie, who do you see moving for Chicago to deal with their cap issues?
Katie Strang (2:11 PM)
I feel like conventional wisdom leaves me to believe Oduya, but time is ticking away in CHI. Gotta move someone out by the season opener
Robin (MI) [via mobile]
Katie, how true are the rumors that players don't like playing for Babcock? I'm really sick of Detroit not being able to lure players in anymore. It blows my mind Holland got resigned bc if we are all being honest since 2009hia decisions have been very poor, starting with signing Franzen before Hossa
Andrew (East Islip)
Do you think the Rangers will win the Metropolitan division? If not, who's deep enough on D and in Goal to beat them?
Katie Strang (2:15 PM)
Sorry, having some computer issues. Let me answer Robin's question first: Babcock definitely runs a tight ship and there is no doubt he has pretty high standards to meet as a coach. Players might not like it, but if they at least respect him, then he is doing his job. And for any doubt when it comes to Ken Holland, look at the team's outstanding organizational depth. That's no accident. This is a franchise that scouts, drafts and assesses talent well. That's why the Wings have been able to keep that playoff streak intact
Katie Strang (2:16 PM)
Now to Andrew's question: I think the Rangers surrendered too much of their depth players from last year's group to replicate their success in the 2014 playoffs. And while I think they always have the chance to win when they have Lundqvist between the pipes, I still think Pittsburgh is the team to beat. New coach and a new voice might be exactly what the Pens need. Doubts about Fleury aside, still a daunting roster
Where do you think Ray Shero will end up? If Snow gets shown the door is LI a possibility?
Katie Strang (2:19 PM)
Good question. Surprised that he hasn't landed somewhere yet, but I'm sure that's by his own choice. Shero is a class act and one of the most well-respected executives in the game. I'm sure he has had multiple opportunities elsewhere. No need to rush. He'll want to find the right fit. And I really do not see Snow seeing the exit until Wang's involvement diminishes. The new owners may have deep pockets and the commitment to winning, but if Wang is still making the decisions, I believe Snow will have a job.
What teams would you consider sleeper teams and overhyped teams?
Katie Strang (2:22 PM)
I don't know if I qualify Tampa Bay as a "sleeper team" but that is the team I am most intrigued to watch. Meanwhile, I'm not sold on Washington even despite the changes. Could also see Colorado or Minnesota taking a step back.
Jon (Bethpage) [via mobile]
Will Ryan McDonagh be the next Rangers captain and do you think he will continue to improve his game offensively in his 2nd season under coach Vigneault?
Katie Strang (2:23 PM)
yes and yes. Think it is only a matter of time until he really enters the conversation for Norris Trophy candidates
John [via mobile]
Mac or PC?
Katie Strang (2:23 PM)
OMG, Mac. Of course.
Will Bylsma be coaching at the end of the year?
Katie Strang (2:25 PM)
Absolutely. Certain coaches (See Capuano, Jack and Carlyle, Randy) will have a short leash to start the season. I see Bylsma landing somewhere as a mid-season replacement, though I do think his cache took a hit during the Olympics. Not all of the US players were thrilled with what he had to offer in Sochi
Pat (Michigan )
What do you think of Rutherford so far? The Pens dont appear to be as strong as last season - thought they should have gotten more for Neal.
Katie Strang (2:26 PM)
Still too early to tell, Pat. Was utterly shocked about Shero in the first place and am still trying to wrap my head around that. Fair enough that you think Neal return would've been higher but I think it was the right choice to move him. What has impressed me most about Rutherford thus far has been his restraint. Like the Ehrhoff deal, and I think it was a wise decision to not sign Fleury to an extension
Geoff (Easton, PA)
Katie... hearing some rumblings that with the possibility that the Rangers won't be able to meet Marc Staal's salary demands could possibly lead to some sort of trade with San Jose involving Joe Thornton. Given the Rangers cap situation is this even a possibility? Is NY a place where Thornton would consider a trade?
Katie Strang (2:28 PM)
Joe Thornton has a no-move clause and has made it very clear he does not want to leave San Jose. Granted, that was before he was stripped of his captaincy, but he had to know that was coming.
Do you think Boston could consider trading Chara to clear some cap room?
Katie Strang (2:28 PM)
Geoff (Easton, PA)
Shocked that Scott Gomez is going back to NJ for a tryout? Is Ryan Malone going to get a look in NY for the Rangers as well? Either player have a shot for either team?
Katie Strang (2:30 PM)
As of last week, was told that it was "definitely a possibility" that Malone would attend Rangers camp on a tryout. Not sure if there are any legal issues or stipulations regarding the league's substance abuse program that may complicate matters. Re: Scott Gomez, no I'm not surprised. He doesn't have people beating down his doors, I'm sure. Any opportunity to show he can still play has to be a welcome one for him
Matt (Columbia, MO)
What are your predictions for the central division this year? And did you like the new playoff format? Personally, I thought it eliminated a few of the better teams too early in the playoffs.
Katie Strang (2:32 PM)
Ah, Central Division, so hard to handicap. Still think CHI is team to beat and WPG is the bottom of the barrel. Curious to see how COL fares and DAL is a team that could make a significant jump as well.I didn't mind the playoff format one bit. How much incredible hockey did we witness last spring? If I'm a Western Conference GM I may feel differently, though
How ugly will Johnanssens contract negotiations get? Possibility that any team throws him an offer sheet?
Katie Strang (2:34 PM)
Highly unlikely since whatever offer sheet Johansen would receive, Columbus would surely match.Could definitely see things continuing to get more and more contentious. I'd expect a training camp holdout
Joe (NY) [via mobile]
do you forsee any moves that the islanders will make before/during training camp?
Katie Strang (2:36 PM)
The Islanders have always been one of the teams keen to extend a handful of training camp invites, particularly because of the veteran rule mandating a certain number of experienced players on the ice for each exhibition game. I'm sure Garth Snow would like to make a trade for a defenseman, so don't be surprised if him and Peter Chiarelli have been in contact
Can you address all of these expansion rumours? Vegas?!?! C'mon. Please let us know your prediction for upcoming expansion.
Katie Strang (2:36 PM)
Nothing imminent. On NHL's radar but nothing written in stone
Paul (Wisconsin )
Have you seen Eichel or McDavid play? Do you see any teams tanking it at the end of the season. I know that doesnt garuntee anything but with two generational players at the top of the draft you never know
Katie Strang (2:38 PM)
I haven't actually, Paul, and I'm excited to do so, but no I really do not see teams tanking. The way the game is now, GMs and coaches feel an intense pressure to win NOW. With their livelihoods on the line, they would never want to tank nor would the players on the ice consider such a thing.
Do you think Letang will rebound and play to his Norris candidate potential?
Katie Strang (2:40 PM)
I think that's also really hard to predict, given the severity and frightening nature of his injury last season. There were definitely times in the playoffs last spring where he appeared to be rounding back into form but I imagine we'll have a much better idea of where he is at now that he has had a full off-season to train and recover
Is Detroit taking a step further this year with guys back from injuries? I was surprised by the resigning of Quincy and several others. Detroit seems like a long shot to be a contender
Katie Strang (2:42 PM)
Being healthy would go a long way, especially when you look at the caliber of guys they had hurt last season, including their two biggest stars in Datsyuk and Zetterberg. If those guys can stay healthy and produce, and they can continue to get key contributions from their young players, Detroit will be a dangerous team. Add in a bounce-back season from Jimmy Howard and I think they are a club other teams would like to avoid next spring
Brian Gooch (Phoenix)
Rangers fan out on the left coast, do you see the Rangers and Staal being able to work out an extension during the season with negotiations seemingly non existent to this point?
Katie Strang (2:44 PM)
If Staal wants to stay, then I think the two sides should be able to work something out without things growing too contentious. I don't think Staal wants to be in a Callahan or Lundqvist contract situation, with an impasse taking the spotlight during the season, but I wouldn't be too alarmed by the lack of activity thus far. Still a lot of time
Justin (Los Angeles)
Katie,will Doug Wilson and Todd McLellan have a job as this time next year?
Katie Strang (2:44 PM)
Think that really depends on how the Sharks do this spring. Another underwhelming playoff appearance isn't going to cut it, I imagine
Thomas Cosenza (Tampa)
Can Ben Bishop get back to where he was last season prior to the wrist injury?
Katie Strang (2:46 PM)
Absolutely. Has had a long time to rehab and recover and get back into fighting shape. Having a veteran like Nabokov behind him should help too. Nabokov has been extremely well liked as a locker room presence and he can provide some stability should Bishop have any hiccups
JayB (Santa Ana)
Do Lundquist and NY Rangers continue to get more media attention than Quick, LA Kings or heck all the great California teams in spite of last years thumping delivered?
Katie Strang (2:48 PM)
Here we go with the East Coast bias, again. I think some of that is legitimately true, especially with the Rangers playing in the media capitol of the world and the Eastern time zone favorability. But I also think that LA, Southern Cal in general, is really picking up steam as a hockey hotbed. With two wins in the past three years, they deserve all the recognition they can get
Are the Panthers a playoff team?
Katie Strang (2:49 PM)
Probably hinges most on the development of their young players, but they do have a terrific crop of kids in Bjustad, Huberdeau, Barkov and Ekblad, assuming the latter makes the team
Katie Strang (2:50 PM)
Ok all, we are going to end there today. Have a great rest of the week and looking forward to seeing you all again next time!