Chat with Craig Custance
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com NHL Insider Craig Custance stops by to chat about the latest news from the ice.
Custance joined ESPN in September 2011 as an NHL reporter for ESPN the Magazine, ESPN Insider and ESPN.com. He joined ESPN following a stint with the Sporting News. A graduate of Michigan State University, he lived for nearly a decade in Georgia working for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he spent time covering the late Atlanta Thrashers.
Send your questions now and join Custance Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET!
Craig Custance (2:00 PM)
Hey everyone - lots to cover today with the trade deadline closing in. Let's get going!
kovy seems to heat up down the stretch, he has 9 pts in his last 3 games, 10 in last 4, and he carried the team last year to a crazy record, and now with parise playing do you think teams will fear the devils down the stretch? and maybe even the playoffs? prediction on devils vs rangers tonight?
Craig Custance (2:04 PM)
Ilya Kovalchuk has to be thrilled right now. He's a guy who loves to be on the ice and his icetime is crazy. He's at 24:42 per game, way more than any other forward in the league. Who is second? Zach Parise at 22:06, so Pete DeBoer is clearly riding his horses. It's certainly a different tempo in New Jersey right now and if they can keep it up, they shouldn't be a fun team to play down the stretch. I just wonder if they have the defense to slow teams enough over the course of a 7-game series. When I look at the Eastern Conference contenders, I still like the Rangers, Flyers, Penguins and Bruins better. And outside Philly, I like the goaltending better on those teams too. As for tonight, I'll say 3-2 Rangers.
Leafs!! are you surprise where they stand at this point? Any Trades on the pipes? Do you think they will make the playoffs?
Craig Custance (2:06 PM)
I pegged them as a playoff team before the season started but penciled them in as a No. 8 seed. The way they're playing right now, I wouldn't be surprised if they climbed higher than that. I think they're definitely a playoff team especially if James Reimer can maintain a high level of play. Brian Burke wants to add size for the stretch run and would love to be aggressive in the trade market. Problem is, there's not a ton of size available. He has some depth on defense he could trade which is always a commodity this time of year.
Craig-a lot of people continue to bring up Whitney to the Bruins but I think they need blueline depth more. Any chance the Hab's would send USS Hal Gill home? or maybe Oduya from winnipeg?
Craig Custance (2:08 PM)
I think both Oduya and Gill will be moved before the deadline. Whitney is an interesting option. When I spoke with Peter Chiarelli he said he was definitely interested in adding a veteran forward in the Mark Recchi role that is still vacated. Whitney would be a great addition. Problem is, Coyotes are playing well and he's not going anywhere if they're in the mix for the playoffs. If I were betting, I'd put Phoenix in that No. 8 spot out West which isn't good news for Bruins fans who covet Whitney.
Jere (San Diego, CA)
With the Predators looking to buy, who are their prime targets? Who would they give up for those targets
Craig Custance (2:10 PM)
Yeah, the Predators would love to add some offense, not only to bolster their top six for the playoffs but to give Ryan Suter something to think about during contract talks. Hemsky might be an option there as would Ruutu. With lack of forwards available, Ruutu won't be a cheap addition. They'd have to be willing to part with a first-rounder and when Paul Fenton is making your picks, that's a lot to give up.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Craig, who's coming to Detroit? Nabakov? These last two games have shown that McDonald/Conklin won't be able to hold down the fort, and given they are in the toughest division in hockey, winning the Central is extremely important.
Craig Custance (2:11 PM)
When I spoke with a Detroit source this weekend he put the chances of the Red Wings adding a goalie at 50/50. That was before Conklin struggled so those odds might have changed. Jimmy Howard is obviously the guy there and they need to figure out if they want to give up assets just for insurance. I think the jury is still out on the Detroit goalie situation.
Any word on possible trade targets for the Sabres?
Craig Custance (2:15 PM)
Targets? I think it may be time for the Sabres to pack it in and start collecting some assets for next year. A guy like Paul Gaustad will draw interest from contenders looking for forward depth and a guy who can win faceoffs. I'll be curious to see if Derek Roy is moved. He has one more year left on a deal that comes with a cap hit of $4 million next season.
Caps just don't look right this year. Any chance they turn things around and become a threat to anyone in the East? I don't see it happening...
Craig Custance (2:17 PM)
Yeah JD, I'm not seeing it either. The Nicklas Backstrom injury is a huge blow for this team. They're certainly capable of winning the Southeast but that says more about the competition than it does the Capitals. I don't see more than one team from that division making the playoffs and don't see the division winner making much noise once they get there.
As a Ranges fan, anything less than a conference final is a fail?
Craig Custance (2:19 PM)
That's a tough call because I think that team is set up to be competitive for the next few seasons. If they win in the first round and then lose in 7 in the second round to a good team, I'm not too hard on them. But for the sake of the development of the young players, a trip to the conference final or SCF would be great experience for them.
Hey Craig! Tampa has put together a nice little run of late and is looking a bit like the team that surprised a lot of people last season. Can their goaltending and blue-line hold together well enough for them to overcome a big deficit and is Yzerman a buyer right now or closer to the deadline?
Craig Custance (2:22 PM)
Tampa is in a bit of a holding pattern right now because of the way they're playing. Steve Yzerman can't start sending off pieces when he sees his guys battling the way they have been. In fact, if they keep winning he'd be smart to reward his team with a goalie. Maybe someone young who wouldn't cost much like Ben Bishop. But ultimately I see this team selling at the deadline and getting a good return for a player like Dominic Moore. Brett Clark could be a trade option too.
Can the pens be serious cup contenders if Sid does not come back for the playoffs?
Craig Custance (2:24 PM)
If everyone else is healthy, including Evgeni Malkin, I say yes. They felt they were a Matt Cooke away from getting out of the first round last year. I know they're still cautiously optimistic Crosby will be back by then. But even without him, that's not a team I'd want to face in the playoffs.
Craig....if the Bruins were managed like the Pats, they would unload Timmy for a top line right wing and pay Rask Top 10 goalie money.....agree?
Craig Custance (2:26 PM)
They'd also bring in an aging wide receiver. I wouldn't be stunned if Rask gets a new deal at some point, although not necessarily before the deadline. Tim Thomas, however, isn't going anywhere. Chiarelli re-stated that when we chatted a few days ago.
Dave (Darien, IL)
Craig, is this the third year in a row that the backup goalie will become the starter in Chicago?
Craig Custance (2:27 PM)
It's quite possible but I still have memories of the way Crawford played last year in the postseason and would give him first crack at it. It may just come down to which goalie has the hot hand (or warm hand) heading into Game 1.
Matt (Ann Arbor)
Crag, Who are the Flyers potential D men targets and who do you think would be the best fit?
Craig Custance (2:29 PM)
Gleason made a heck of a lot of sense until he resigned. They'd love Suter although I'm not sure he's going anywhere. I think a guy like Hal Gill would be a nice fit in Philly. Dependable player in the playoffs who knows what it takes to be successful that time of year.
tdiddy (winnipeg) [via mobile]
Most people think I'm an idiot when I tell them I think the Caps should trade Ovechkin. He has'nt won anything playoff wise, he's not really filling the net lately, he's being a distraction to the team AND the Caps could get a BUNDLE for him. The Oilers still won cups after trading Coffey and Gretzky...Am I nuts? Or possibly the smartest person you've ever seen?
Craig Custance (2:31 PM)
Here's the thing tdiddy -- maybe under the right circumstances they'd get a bundle but it'd have to be an exact fit because that contract is huge. It's not one of those long-term deals that has fictitious years tacked on the end to drive down the cap hit. It's a long-term contract that comes with a hit of nearly $10 million per season. As talented as he is, would you trade for him at that number?
Ron Burgundy (San Diego)
I'm Ron Burgundy?
Craig Custance (2:32 PM)
Stay classy Ron!
If you were Greg Sherman, what would you do this trade deadline/offseason to make the Avs a championship level team?
Craig Custance (2:35 PM)
This is clearly a budget team and I'm not sure Colorado has the financial backing to make the moves necessary now to progress beyond a borderline playoff time. There's a growing collection of young talent and it may be time for them to up the aggression during free agency this summer. I just don't know if that's realistic.
Jim (St. Louis)
Do the Blues stand pat due to the ownership situation and trying to get that squared away?
Craig Custance (2:37 PM)
Jim - I got the sense in talking to Doug Armstrong that money and ownership issues will play a role in how aggressive he can be at the deadline. But he also felt that getting healthy would help this team and I know there are players there who think there's still room for growth under Hitchcock. Health will be a huge factor for the Blues.
What do the Kings need to sdo to score consistantly? Trade Bernnier for a proven scorer? If so who would that be?
Craig Custance (2:39 PM)
Hey Ross - I think the Kings will kick the tires on Jeff Carter although I can't imagine Dean Lombardi paying as much as Scott Howson did to acquire him. Bernier is certainly a luxury LA should consider turning into an asset up front. There was interest in Hemsky last year and I wonder if Lombardi and the Oilers have patched things up enough to deal again.
Are the Wild buyers? And if so, who do they go after? Not many top 6 forwards available without mortgaging a little of the future.
Craig Custance (2:41 PM)
Roger - I think the Wild would be buyers for the right price but there's not a huge urgency there to overpay for a forward. I think Chuck Fletcher will continue to try and help his club by finding a fit up front but will stay the course in developing and keeping young talent moving forward. It's a delicate balance, I know.
James (New York )
Given the uncertainty of Crosby's injury, what do you think the Penguins will do at the deadline. Obviously if he's not available come playoff time it frees up the $8.7 million in cap space which leaves the prospect of them going after someone big up front. What do you think?
Craig Custance (2:43 PM)
The Penguins can't risk trading for a big salary and then Crosby getting healthy and coming back in a month. What would they do then? Ray Shero said he's going to be patient in assessing the Penguins needs and health situation. If they do something, I got the sense it'll be closer to the deadline when they have a better feel for Sid's health. But I don't see something huge.
Is there any chance the Devils add a piece, I think they could use a stay at home defenseman to take the pressure off of the Goaltenders.
Craig Custance (2:44 PM)
Matthew - I agree, they could use that kind of player but there's just not a lot of money to spend in NJ. They might have to be content with what they have.
Alex (San Jose)
With Havlat set to return in early march do you see the sharks going after another top 6 forward?
Craig Custance (2:46 PM)
Yeah, I do. Doug Wilson is always pretty aggressive on the trade front so if a top six forward is available I expect San Jose to be in the mix. Even if Havlat comes back, what are you getting? Is he a guy who you can count on to stay healthy? This is a big year for the Sharks, high expectations. They could use more certainty at forward.
Craig,Is a lockout for next year a realistic thing or is it just fear and speculation. I understand anything can happen but is it pretty much understood on both sides that a lockout would kill the sport after all the momentum it has been gaining? Also, Kubina seems like a good depth guy for Detroit. Is that something Stevey Y and Kenny are rumbling over or no?
Craig Custance (2:48 PM)
Jeremy - I'm an optimist but you also have to be realistic about things. It's possible we see a lockout. It's still really early on here in CBA talks so I'm sticking with my optimism that if there's a work stoppage it won't be a long one. Detroit would love to add depth on defense to take some pressure off Kindl in the playoffs. Not sure about Kubina though, haven't heard his name.
How many points do you think John Tavares would have right now if he played in Stamkos' place in Tampa? I think he'd be leading the NHL, but not if Malkin hadn't missed the beginning of the season. Fair?
Craig Custance (2:50 PM)
Troy - Steven Stamkos certainly has more offensive talent around him than Tavares but I wouldn't want to take anything away from what he's accomplished. He's earned everything he's gotten with the Lightning. I saw him a lot in Ottawa for All-Star weekend, even shared a plane ride home with him, and he's really put the work in to physically develop into an NHL player. But yeah, Tavares would do alright playing with Martin St. Louis.
Columbus isn't doing any better under there interim coach Todd Richards, who do you think they might go after to replace him next season, if he makes it that long?
Craig Custance (2:53 PM)
Richards will make it through the season and I'm sure Scott Howson will give him a long look for the job there. These haven't been the best of circumstances for him. I'll be honest Shawn, I haven't talked to anyone in Columbus recently about the coaching job beyond this season so I'm not ready to speculate on that one yet. But there's a long list of capable coaches out there -- Therrien, Carlyle, Hartley, MacTavish -- not to mention any guys who lose their job after the season. There should be a decent pool of candidates.
What's your opinion on Ilya Bryzgalov? Two of the goals he conceded against the Rangers at the weekend were unbelievably soft, and I really don't think it's an issue with talent. Does it affect Paul Holmgren's mind-set heading into the trade deadline?
Craig Custance (2:55 PM)
Bryzgalov has shown signs of improvement since the Winter Classic and you have to think some of the adversity he's gone through so far this season will help sharpen him for the postseason if he can learn from it. I'd be really surprised if they made a move in goal, I think they're committed to the guys they have there. It'll help if they can bring in some help on D to replace Pronger.
Any chance Torts gets COY?
Craig Custance (2:57 PM)
He's in the mix, so yeah. If Ottawa makes the playoffs, I'm giving it to Paul MacLean though. Incredible job there. If Phoenix makes it, I'm giving Dave Tippett a long look. I still can't figure out how he does it. And don't forget Ken Hitchcock. He might be the front-runner right now.
Which of these three players has the best chance to wind up on broadway? Selanne, Ruutu, or Doan?
Craig Custance (2:59 PM)
Of those three? Ruutu. Doan wants to stay in Phoenix and they're still very much in the mix. Selanne will be an interesting one to watch. I get the sense Bob Murray would prefer he retire with Anaheim but if Selanne wants a trade to a contender they'd honor it. I think that list of trade options would be a very short one though. It'll be Selanne's call.
Will the Rangers acquire Ryan Smyth and if so, will he be able to help their poor power play?
Craig Custance (3:00 PM)
Oilers telling inquiring GMs that the plan now is to keep Smyth and that's consistent with what Ryan is saying publicly. I guess that could change before the deadline and if it does, there will be no shortage of teams lining up to add him. New York and Boston would be the front-runners.
Craig Custance (3:02 PM)
Alright everyone - great questions. Thanks so much for joining, really appreciate it. If I missed you or you have another question you want me to hit in Friday's mailbag, click the mailbag link at the top of the chat and send it in. Thanks for stopping by!