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 (3:01 PM)
We've got EJ!
Matt (Orlando, FL)
Where do the Rangers stand after the trade yesterday? Do you think they are done making deals? Are the payoffs in their future?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
I think the Rangers will continue to look to do whatever they can to improve their roster, like all the teams. I wouldn't be surprised if they make another deal or two, if they feel they can do something to improve the team. In the trade they made, I think the best part of it is they were able to unload a contract that's not a great one. That was a plus for them. In turn, they get a contract that expires at the end of the season. Then they gain salary cap flexibility to be able to add other pieces. I don't get the feeling that Jokinen is a long term guy in New York.
Over/under: Caps score six against Boston tonight.
EJ Hradek (3:07 PM)
I'll go under, because Mike Green is still out. Boston is going to be more of a desperate team and they can play as a stifling team. Love the way the Caps are playing right now, though.
Do you see the Pens adding a winger before the deadline? Is Bobby Ryan even a possibility to come to the Pens?
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
Isn't that what they do every year? Two years ago, they added Hossa. Last year they added Guerin. Yeah, I think they'll be in the market to try and find another winger or two to come in and play as a short term addition. The two guys that I've heard the most about so far are Whitney from Carolina and Ponikarovsky. Those are the two that I've heard that they might have an interest in. To answer your question, yes, I think they will be shopping to bolster their group of wingers and give their elite centers more help.
EJ The Avs crashed into the Rockies hard. They went from flying high winning 6 in a row. Now after a pitiful three game stretch they are in danger of slipping out of the playoffs. What happened? Tired? Also of note is that some of the teams who have been consistent Colorado, Buffalo, and New Jersey are now struggling.
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
I don't know if they're in danger of slipping out of the playoff race. They've had a couple of losses. They didn't look very good on Sunday against the Rangers, from what I saw. With a team like Colorado, that's been such a surprise, we keep on waiting for the other shoe to drop. The Western Conference is going to be a fight to the end and you can't afford a prolonged losing streak. The Avs have a nice run of home games. I think they play three games of 12 that are on the road. They have Columbus tonight, so there is no time like the present to turn it around. They're still holding a playoff spot as we speak. I'd have to see more of a down turn before I say they're in a free fall. They've had a natural fall back after winning 6 in a row.
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
They had a little bit of a slide in November and they had strong play in December. There is still 28 games to go for them.
Kovalchuk: Who's in the lead now?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
I guess Atlanta is in the lead for his services, because they still have him. I talked to his agent over the weekend and it's kind of status quo for them, because his first choice is to stay in Atlanta and they want to keep him. They just haven't been able to come to terms with him. LA, Boston, Chicago and the teams that we've seen rumored all have an interest. You have to keep in mind that there's no telling if these teams can keep him signed long term. Because of that the teams are not going to want to give up their assets. It seems like this is one of those things that will continue to play out between now and the deadline. It might not get finalized until after the Olympics in that small window.
Is Toronto better than they were last week now and also were the moves just moves for the future?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
I see them as big picture moves. In the short term between now and the end of the season are they better? I don't know. They added a player who's still young in Phaneouf and has a lot of upside. They made the trade without a lot of risk. These trades may not work out down the road, it's hard to predict how much to his potential that he's going to be able to play. But they were done with minimal risk and addressed some things the Leafs wanted to do. I like these deals a lot better than the deal they made for Phil Kessel.
Roy (Van City 2010)
What do you think Gillis will do if anything in vancouver to improve the Canuck's chances of winning the cup?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
All of the managers are always looking, especially if they think they can compete for the Cup. To fill in the pieces and gaps on their teams. For Vancouver, they'd probably be looking for an additional line scoring help. The question is who can pick up the slack there and who can make up the difference after those guys. I think one name is going to come up for a lot of teams is Whitney, because Carolina will be selling. He's got experience. He's won a championship. That's a name that could fit in a lot of different cities.
What is Suter thinking? Kotalik and Higgins for Jokinen and Prust? What a steal for the Rangers and what to make of all these changes?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
It's a good question. For me, I really don't understand where Calgary benefits in the deal with the Rangers. They take on a contract in Kotalik that's for another three years. They also take on Higgins, although his contract is expiring, he hasn't done much in his 50 or so games in New York. They must feel they can get more out of these players. Unless you have a team that's really a strong team, I think you want to have that flexibility to go into the offseason and the ability to make trades. To have a player who's not really a core guy, it strikes me as something that was done in the moment. I don't think that's how you want to run things.
Allen (Lubbock, TX)
EJ, The Kings are looking like Playoff contenders this season, my question however is if you think this team can become a real cup contender in the next couple of years.
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
I think the Kings are positioned to really be a good team for a long while. They rebuilt their organization through the draft with young players. They have a legit No. 1 center in Kopitar. They have an absolute No. 1 defenseman in Doughty. They have young goalies. There is a core element in place. I don't know how things will go this year in their first kick at the can, but I have no doubt that looking at the young players in their group that this is a team that's built to be competitive for a long time. They can be a legit Stanley Cup contender.
What moves do you think the Stars will make at the trade deadline?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
Dallas has a couple of interesting questions. They have to decide what they're going to do with Turco. He can be an UFA this summer. I think they need to look long and hard going forward. If he's not in their plans, then I think they need to think about trading him at the deadline. When I look at Dallas, I think they have a strength at forward. They could use some help in defense. Those kind of trades are hard to make. Teams don't like to get rid of defensemen. This is a time when a young GM is vulnerable. When you don't have experience in that role, other managers can take advantage of that. It's a tough first go around for a GM at the deadline. Sometimes you get ahead of yourself or get caught up in the moment and look back on with a degree of regret.
Chris (Long Island)
What do you think the Islanders do come trade deadline(s)? Where do you think Biron ends up? Do they trade any of there pending ufas like Sutton, Sim, Park . . . Thanks
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
I don't know where Biron ends up. He hasn't played all that well this year. It's not all his fault, the team hasn't played well in front of him. And he hasn't played a lot the last few weeks with the return of DiPietro. The more marketable guys for the Islanders right now would be to trade Roloson. I've heard his name come up in talking about what Chicago might do. There's still some nervousness within some parts of that organization about the goaltending and Roloson might be one of the few parts to upgrade. A couple of years ago he helped his team go deep in the playoffs It will be interesting to see how they go there. If you can make a deal as a rebuilding team to get something of value, you have to consider it. After that, the best advice I could give them is to continue to stay the course with their younger guys and don't do anything foolish. You're in the group of bubble teams in the East. If they were to somehow sneak into the playoffs, they're still a ways away from where they want to be.
What is the league going to do about retaliation against clean hits? The Bruins are losing one of their better defenseman for 4 weeks ... he could have knocked kopitar into next week if he wanted. The Kings really should have gone after the D that made the pass!
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
I don't like it. It's one of those things we've seen more and more in the game, a clean hit is no longer tolerated and it leads to retaliation. Before you tried to even the score with a clean hit of your own, now it's a skirmish. I don't know what the rest of the league can do other than trying to pass some legislation about the rules for extra penalties for teams that respond to that. Then you have to distinguish between hits that are clean and those that are not. But it's something I would like to see eliminated. A clean hit is a clean hit. Brush yourself off and try to return the favor at some point later in the game.
EJ Hradek (3:33 PM)
Thanks for the good questions. We have a lot going on. It's going to be a real interesting couple of months as we go through the Olympics and the trade deadline.