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 (1:59 PM)
Hey everyone! Excited for another chat as the Stanley Cup finals close in. Lots to get to, so let's get going!
Drew (Waco, TX)
Why are the Kings all of a sudden playing so well after their mediocre season?
Craig Custance (2:02 PM)
Drew - It was a strange regular season for the Kings. I think Doughty's holdout at the beginning was a distraction and impacted his play for much of the season. A Mike Richards injury really cut into scoring early on and put a ton of pressure on Quick's shoulders. This team didn't find its identity until Darryl Sutter arrived, implementing a more physical, fast game. So factor Sutter, Doughty's re-emergence, the addition of guys like Jeff Carter and Dwight King with a healthy roster and you get the run we're seeing right now.
Tyler (LA, CA)
After watching all the games this post season, how can anyone say Lundquist is better then Quick? I don't understand why Quick wasn't the run away for the Vez. This team wouldn't be in the playoff without Quick. He is the best goalie in the world right?
Craig Custance (2:04 PM)
The writers don't vote on the Vezina but my Hart ballot showed how valuable I thought Quick was to the Kings. He was No. 2 behind Malkin. I think Quick was hurt playing in LA. One Western Conference coach told me that Quick would have steamrolled Vezina competition playing in NY. All that said, Lundqvist was outstanding this year and there's nothing wrong with him winning the Vezina.
It seems likely that Alexander Semin is leaving the Caps. While he will get offers from a lot of teams, who do you see as the front runners and major players most likely to get his service?
Craig Custance (2:06 PM)
Semin wants to play in the NHL next season, although I'm sure the biggest offer of all will come from the KHL. Semin to me could be a small consolation prize for teams that need scoring but miss out on Zach Parise. So that could be a team like Detroit, if Pavel Datsyuk signs off on it and the Red Wings can't lure Parise. He'd also be a good fit on a team that needs to take a bit of a risk in free agency to get an impact player, maybe a team like the Islanders who have struck out in the past on the UFA market.
The Rangers probably can't play any worse this series, and are tied 2-2 with home ice. Only way to go is up right? Talk me off a ledge...
Craig Custance (2:09 PM)
Bryan - It's the same way I felt about them during the Capitals series. It seemed like Washington outplayed them in a couple of the Rangers wins and yet the Rangers kept winning and advanced. At some point that's not a fluke. They find ways to pull things out and they're a resilient group. They need to put that ugly Game 4 behind them, and I've come to expect nothing less from this group.
With CBA negotiations, will the owners try to adopt a system similar to the NFL in regards to a contract and being able to waive a player and how it counts against the salary cap?
Craig Custance (2:11 PM)
Greg - I'm not entirely familiar with the NFL CBA but I don't think the league would push a system in which it would be easy for teams to waive guys and not have a penalty against the salary cap. There are already teams who aren't thrilled with the ability the Rangers, Blackhawks and others have to bury a contract in the AHL or Europe.
I'm a Rangers fan, but I think Semin to NYI makes a ton of sense. Any opinion on it? Could be a nice fit with Tavares and Moulson
Craig Custance (2:12 PM)
I do think it makes sense. I'd like to see the Islanders add some defense but there's not a ton of help there in free agency. It's time for them to bring in some help for their young players, since this team has to make the playoffs next year. It'd be worth the risk for Garth Snow, in my opinion.
Tyler (LA, CA)
Who is your cup favorite and why?
Craig Custance (2:14 PM)
Regardless of who comes out of the East, I'm picking the Kings. There's so much to like about LA if they eliminate Phoenix. They have an elite goaltender, a balanced defensive corps. They're big, fast and physical and are scoring goals, which wasn't always the case. The power play needs help but you don't need to click on the PP during the playoffs to win it all, as Boston showed us last year. Dustin Brown is a fantastic leader, they're healthy and should be well-rested if they can take care of business tonight.
Who wins Rangers-Devils and in 6 or 7?
Craig Custance (2:15 PM)
JB - Sticking with my original pick. Devils in 7. I know Tortorella thinks this opinion is BS, but at some point these long series will take their toll on the Rangers.
Semin to the KHL makes more sense. Guy's a sulking underachiever that lacks the heart to win a Cup with. So yeah, maybe perfect for the Isle.
Craig Custance (2:16 PM)
I would agree Ralph with your KHL opinion, but I was told under no uncertain terms that his strong preference is to play in the NHL next season.
Do you see the Bruins being serious players for Rich Nash or Zack Parise this summer?
Craig Custance (2:19 PM)
Bob - It's an interesting thought but I'm not sure they have the cap room to add Parise. Peter Chiarelli would have to do some serious shuffling to make it happen. My three favorites for Parise, if he doesn't sign in NJ, are Detroit, NYR and Wild. I wouldn't completely rule them out for Nash if CBJ would take some salary the other way.
Where do you think Suter ends up signing with?
Craig Custance (2:19 PM)
Donovan (LA )
With this playoff run, does Dustin Penner become a big time free agent?
Craig Custance (2:21 PM)
It's a great question Donovan. Which Dustin Penner are you getting if you sign him to a big contract? He's been a great fit with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on the second line and he's a nice fit in that room. I've really enjoyed talking to him during the playoffs the times I've covered the Kings. Very articulate and cerebral in his answers. But I have no idea what I'd pay him on the open market. Not the $4 million he's earning now, I don't think.
Henrique for rookie of the year? Yes/No why?
Craig Custance (2:22 PM)
Dan - I voted Landeskog for Calder but boy has Henrique been good, eh? I just loved Landeskog's complete game in Colorado this season. Plays both sides of the ice, he's physical and can score goals. He's a future captain too. Big Landeskog fan.
Eric (San Francisco )
Does it seem strange that in the first year of the big NBC TV contract, the likely Stanley Cup participants are New York and Los Angeles? NBC should have to pay extra for thata?¦.
Craig Custance (2:24 PM)
You're not floating a conspiracy theory, are you Eric? To me, the more important Stanley Cup finals matchups came in the last couple years of the last contract when the league needed the ratings to earn that big contract it got. Now, they have the security of a long-term deal. But yeah, a NY & LA final would be good for exposure on a lot of levels.
Keith (Hamilton, MA)
Do you see the Flyers moving Sergei Bobrovsky? Would Tampa take a chance on him as a less expensive option than say Luongo or Bernier?
Craig Custance (2:26 PM)
Keith - I have to believe they'd only entertain trading Bob if they were convinced they couldn't get out of the Bryzgalov contract. It's possible the next CBA comes with a way out in some form of amnesty. If I'm Steve Yzerman, I'm looking at Jonathan Bernier before Bobrovsky. Maybe Anders Lindback too.
Do you think shero moves J.staal? if so to edm for 1st overall????
Craig Custance (2:27 PM)
I think it's definitely a distinct possibility. Those three centers are an absolute luxury and at some point the Penguins won't be able to afford them all. Now might be the time considering their playoff underachievement. If I'm Edmonton, I'm jumping at that deal but it might take more than the No. 1 overall.
Kevin (Louisville, KY)
Don't we think we are getting ahead of ourselves with the Kings? I like them this year but they haven't won a cup yet and we are blowing them up to be the next Red Wings Dynasty.
Craig Custance (2:29 PM)
You're right Kevin, it always helps to have a little perspective. Things change so quickly in today's NHL. I remember thinking the Penguins might win the next three Stanley Cups after they won theirs a few years ago. It's hard to put out a consistent elite winner right now in the NHL.
Hey Craig,While the Red Wings are very likely players for Suter and Parise, do you see the possibility of letting teams potentially overpay for their services and signing more role players? I.E Semin, Penner, and perhaps a Barret Jackman on the blue line? Given the success at the World Championships with Datsyuk, I think Semin would look great with a winged wheel.
Craig Custance (2:31 PM)
Conor - In my opinion, the Red Wings are more than capable of developing those kind of role players within their system. There's good young talent on the way. But there's not a Parise or Suter coming. Detroit has an ownership group willing to spend, might as well spend the money.
Does Peter Deboer get enough credit?The guy has changed the entire nature of the Devils playing style, and seems willing to try anything to give New Jersey an edge against their opponents.
Craig Custance (2:33 PM)
He will now. You're exactly right. Jacques Lemaire is not an easy act to follow and DeBoer has been absolutely outstanding. I love the way the Devils play. You have to love how he didn't back down from Tortorella either. Great work by DeBoer this season.
Kevin (Louisville, KY)
Just to piggy back off Conor's question, I think that it would be in the Wings best interest to stay low this off season as next year's free agent market is so much better.. Thoughts?
Craig Custance (2:35 PM)
Here's the problem with that Kevin. The following summer's free agent class always looks much better. Then guys start signing with their teams and it slowly thins out. If I'm a team pursuing a high-end free agent this summer and I don't get Parise or Suter, I'm not signing anybody and saving my money for next summer. But I'm definitely not passing on Parise or Suter in hopes that I can get somebody next summer.
Joshua Bass (Los Angeles)
First of all, i just graduated college, and its my birthday. Second, i can't wait for the game tonight! Third, what do you see for Free Agency for the kings with the cap relief. Is Semin or Parise not happening?
Craig Custance (2:39 PM)
First of all, congrats on college graduation and happy birthday! I wouldn't be surprised to see the Kings make a play for Parise. In theory you could put Carter back in the middle and have your top three centers be Kopitar, Richards and Carter. Then put Parise on the wing with Richards. But he's not a necessity for the Kings, who shouldn't break the bank to sign him. The priority is addressing their goaltending. Quick's contract is up after next season and he'd like a long-term deal. That's going to cut into some of their financial flexibility. Don't see Semin in LA.
Dan (Washington, DC)
Would have loved to hear what was exchanged between DeBoer and Tortorella after Rupp was ejected...
Craig Custance (2:39 PM)
You and me both Dan. That tape has to exist somewhere, right?
Chris (Newport Beach)
Craig, who wins in a fight, Deboer or Torts? I thought it may actually happen last night. For what it's worth, I still think Sutter could take both of them without breaking a sweat.
Craig Custance (2:40 PM)
Sutter is farm strong. I wouldn't mess with farm strong.
Which player still playing has been the biggest underachiever for their team?
Craig Custance (2:41 PM)
Good question Bill. I'm going with Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata. He has just two goals in 15 games after scoring 35 goals during the regular season. If they're going to pull off a miracle he needs to get going.
Carlos tucson [via mobile]
Why was sid the kid out so long ?
Craig Custance (2:43 PM)
Carlos - He was dealing with post-concussion syndrome and then a neck issue that was discovered a little later. It was a credit to Crosby's camp and the Penguins that he wasn't rushed in his recovery.
Do media types really enjoy Torts? He's such a clown and his show is getting old. Says he's tired of staged fighting, then sends out his goons to "send a message" to Brodeur and the devils. The Rangers come out looking like a team of thugs rather than a skilled defensive team that's merely been outplayed for 60mins.
Craig Custance (2:46 PM)
When you have a job to do and you're trying to write a post-game story that has insight into the strategy of the Rangers, his behavior during recent press conferences gets old really quick. I've also spoken with him where he talked at great length, with incredible detail and candor about his players. I enjoy dealing with one of those Tortorellas and not so much the other.
AJJ (New York)
Will the Rangers will the Cup?
Craig Custance (2:47 PM)
If I was betting, I'd put my money behind no. Not sure either team from the East beats LA.
I am flying to LA for the finals and trying to predict when the first game would be. Can you suggest a date based on previous years?
Craig Custance (2:49 PM)
Matt - Was just trying to do the same with a hotel. I'm working under the assumption Games 1 and 2 in NY/NJ will be on Wed (May 30) and Saturday. After that, I don't have any clue and can't be held responsible for any fees you may incur for flight time changes.
With Josefson back, the Devils now have 13 forwards and 7 defensemen they are willing to roll in almost any situation. Big factor or marginal boost for the final three games?
Craig Custance (2:50 PM)
At this time of year when teams are so close, depth and health are as big a factor as anything. I wouldn't underestimate it.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Craig, how good has Ilya Kovalchuk been this post-season? He got a lot of criticism last season, but it seems like he's involved in a lot of the goals the Devils have been scoring lately. I'd say he and Parise have been the two best forwards in the ECF.
Craig Custance (2:51 PM)
Very happy for Kovalchuk, whose strong desire to win hasn't always been channeled in the best ways. He's a good guy who has found a home. It's been a much better fit in NJ than I thought it would be when he signed.
What are some other moves you see the Flyers making this offseason? I think there is no chance Carle comes back.
Craig Custance (2:53 PM)
Bill - I found it interesting to read comments from Paul Holmgren that he was confident he could get a deal done with Carle for under market value. If I'm Matt Carle, after looking at the rest of the free agent class, I'm not giving Philly much of a break financially. He could really cash in this summer and players don't get too many of those opportunities in their career. My biggest question will be how they handle their goaltending situation. Can you really go into next season with the same exact scenario?
Bobby (San Jose)
The more I watch the postseason, the more I realize the Sharks are incapable of playing the style of hockey it takes to win the Cup. Not just this year - the last few years as well. As a team, they're just too soft and too slow, which boggles the mind because size-wise, they are by far one of the bigger teams in the league. Is it a coaching style, leadership issue, or something else? I think there's one obvious forward at the top of the list when you mention "soft", and if the team wants to make progress next season, I think Wilson needs to start with shipping Marleau out.
Craig Custance (2:54 PM)
I agree Bobby. The NHL has certainly evolved this year, especially the way the game is played and called in the playoffs. If this is the way the NHL is headed and will continue, the Sharks might have to do something even more drastic than just trade Marleau. But I'd definitely start there.
Which pending free agent has made themselves the most money with a successful playoff run?
Craig Custance (2:55 PM)
Heef (Chesapeake, VA)
How many cameras will be on DeBoer's and Tort's handshake after this series? Am I the only one rooting for some um... unpleasantness?
Craig Custance (2:57 PM)
I'm always astonished at how quickly these players go from intense hate, to a cordial handshake when a series is wrapped up. It's one of the best traditions in sports and says a lot about hockey players. That said, I can get behind two coaches dropping the gloves in the handshake line.
What are the chances Suter and Parise even hit July 1st? Whether that's re-signing with their current team or having their rights traded.
Craig Custance (2:58 PM)
Great point on their rights Frank. I think both New Jersey and Philly have to consider trading rights if they've exhausted all options of signing their guys. We saw Hamhuis' rights traded a couple times and there's no way Columbus signs Wisniewski without trading for his rights first. It's an effective strategy and I'm curious to see what the rights to either player fetch around the draft.
Almost as a follow-up question, does the success of the Deboer playing style in New Jersey serve as an incentive for Zach Parise to stick around? He exemplifies everything that makes that aggressive system so successful in New Jersey, I think for the first time in his career this is Zach's team - do you think he recognizes that the nature of the Devils new playing style is tailor-made to his strengths?
Craig Custance (3:01 PM)
KP - This success under DeBoer certainly helps the cause but I think the biggest factor will be ownership. Parise should have to be completely and thoroughly convinced that the NJ ownership situation is settled and there won't be any financial issues moving forward before signing a long-term deal.
Craig Custance (3:02 PM)
Alright everybody gotta run, great questions as always. Appreciate the interaction. Enjoy the game tonight and have a great week!