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 1 p.m. ET!
Craig Custance (12:59 PM)
Hey everyone! Let's dive in, lots to get to as lockout charges on.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Will we see NHL Hockey in January?
Craig Custance (1:01 PM)
Hey Chris - Good to hear from you again this week. Same answer as always. I expect hockey in January. My podcast prediction before the season was Jan. 1. We'll see, running out of time.
I'm a fan who is relatively new to hockey. I've only been a fan for a couple of years, but I was wondering if there's ever been any talk of placing a team in Houston. It's a non-traditional market, I understand, but it's the 4th largest city in the country, and I have to think there are enough fans like me to support a franchise.
Craig Custance (1:03 PM)
Hey Joe - Nothing recently but it'd be another interesting gamble by the league. Not so sure they're poised to take on another non-traditional market right now. Right now, my favorites to land a team through expansion or relocation would be 1.)Seattle 1b.)Quebec City. 2. Toronto area.
Mr. Custance,What would the odds be that (pending a deal is struck), they extend the season beyond the standard dates to eke out a couple more games? maybe delay the start of the playoffs for a month? Is it really that difficult to cultivate good ice in july? I mean its almost 2013, don't we have some technology developed? The ice at the Ice Palace in Honolulu seems fine to me year round haha
Craig Custance (1:05 PM)
I don't think technology is an issue, although I'd love to come see the rink in Hawaii sometime. Yeah, I would expect that any season would be expanded beyond the standard dates. To me, the big thing would be avoiding hockey in July. You want to have a long enough season so that it's a legit season but you don't want to cut into the whole summer. Still have draft and free agency to deal with. But I could see a Cup be awarded at the end of June.
If the flyers were to resign knuble do you think that would help since we lost a few pieces on D . Also where do you rank the flyers with this current roster in the EC and i thinkk bryz will have a huge year . How about you
Craig Custance (1:06 PM)
Chris - I love the bold stand on Bryz. I'm a fan of his and would be happy for him if that was the case, although I have concerns about that Philly defense right now. That's an explosive group up front but come playoff time you win with depth on D and elite goaltending. Not sure the Flyers have that combination right now.
Craig, I know we're talking NHL here, but I didn't want to completely overlook the biggest sports story of the week. Your thoughts on Marquez's sensational short counter right that put Pacquiao to sleep on Saturday night?
Craig Custance (1:07 PM)
Wow, my first boxing question. Love it! I knew something was up in that fight when my Twitter feed blew up on Saturday night. Great for boxing!
Hello Craig - wondering how much you follow junior hockey? Do you have a rooting interest? Obviously I miss the NHL, but most of my money has gone to the OHL in recent years. Great hockey at a reasonable price. Go Wolves!
Craig Custance (1:09 PM)
I've seen more junior hockey this year than the last couple combined. I wish I had more time for it during a regular season but the NHL beat keeps us pretty busy. No rooting interest for me, I just love getting the opportunity to go see some of the best young players. Got a chance to see the McDavid kid this year and he's the real deal. Plus, those games have been great to chat with scouts and GMs since they're just as eager to find hockey as I am.
what happens to the 6 year contract I signed if term limit gets reduced to 5 max
Craig Custance (1:10 PM)
Jordan - That would impact contracts signed moving forward. I know the owners are pushing hard for that five-year limit but the players seem pretty bent on going longer than that. That's essentially the biggest battle right now, although there are other issues.
Justin (Long Island, NY)
Are we at the point now where a tentative deal could be done whenever they meet?
Craig Custance (1:11 PM)
Yeah Justin, I really believe that. Talking to people who were part of the negotiations in NY, they stressed just how close they were to making a deal last week. It's too bad it all unraveled the way it did. But yeah, we're at the point in negotiations where a little movement each way could get a deal done.
If there is no amnesty buyout clause in the new CBA and teams can't bury contracts in the minors, how are they going to get under the cap when it drops to $60M or less? I assume there would be a ton of trades at the deadline & during the offseason to scramble to get under the cap.
Craig Custance (1:13 PM)
Assume they'll have some sort of transition rule this year that allows teams to go over a cap that low. But next year is when it gets interesting. If there's no buy out option we're going to see a summer full of trades, which I think some GMs are patiently waiting for. Because you're right, the cap next year could be in the $60M range.
Craig - assuming there is any type of season, how will that affect the remaining free agents still available and will teams have a short period available to sign them?
Craig Custance (1:14 PM)
Bruce - I spoke with some agents last week who have guys without contracts and they anticipate being on the phones immediately with GMs the moment this CBA negotiation ends. IT's going to be a race to get some of those contracts done.
Bill (Boston )
If they are so close why can't they just meet in the middle on the some of the important issues and leave it at that no side will win in this thing or be 100% happy with what they get
Craig Custance (1:15 PM)
The problem is, both sides believe (at least this is what they're saying) that they've already extended themselves far enough. Take the players for instance, they don't want to have contract term limits and think they've made a big concession to go to 8 years. To them, right now. That's the middle. But we're close enough that I think you can start to get a decent idea of what the next deal will look like.
chrisfix that. Is there any peices out there they can get via tr
ok with that being said so what can the flyers possible do to fix that??Is there any peices out there they can get via trade/ FA.
Craig Custance (1:17 PM)
No idea if Philly has had talks w/PHX or not but the one impact defenseman I can see being moved would be Keith Yandle. The Coyotes need a center and Yandle is a great player who happens to play a position of depth for the Coyotes. OEL is a franchise D-man at some point and they have lots of young talent coming on defense. Maybe not before the season but at some point, I wouldn't be surprised if he was moved.
Justin (Long Island, NY)
Craig, I have asked you every week. Hockey or No Hockey?
Craig Custance (1:17 PM)
What are USAs chances of medaling in the WJC? And if the NHL starts before, Canada & Russia will proabably get hit hard. But US could also lose Galchenyuk.
Craig Custance (1:19 PM)
I like the USA team. Seth Jones is a force on defense and they wouldn't be hit as hard by a lockout end. Yakupov, RNH would both probably go. Galchenyuk is borderline but he would be the one candidate Team USA could lose. They can definitely compete for a medal, and are capable of winning it.
Assuming NHL returns in January, do NYR (fan since 1970) benefit from a short season? How about LAK making another run to SCF?
Craig Custance (1:21 PM)
RisRap - I just had a conversation yesterday with someone about the Kings who said they'll be big benefactors from the lockout since the Cup hangover is probably not as big an issue. I think the Rangers are a contender in any size of season, not sure if they benefit or not. Where they get hurt most is if there's a lost season, maybe more than any other team.
How much of a transition is it for players coming back from overseas, both mentally and physically? Different size rink would seem to be more of a factor for goalies, but I am very curious about the whole going from playing games to a short training camp back to playing games again.
Craig Custance (1:23 PM)
Here's the biggest issue to me for the players who are in Europe right now. Some of them have been over there since the start of the lockout and have some mileage. Now, you factor in the possibility of a condensed NHL season and a long playoff run. You can't help but wonder if they're going to be gassed in the late spring. It will be a storyline to watch.
Matt R. (Pittsburgh, PA)
Is realignment being discussed during negotiations or is that for future debate?
Craig Custance (1:23 PM)
Little talk of realignment. I think that gets shelved to a later date. There's enough stuff to iron out right now without rushing realignment, even if I'm in favor of it.
What are the ramifications of a shortened or lost season on those teams that were already struggling financially and need the revenue (for example my home team NJ Devils)?
Craig Custance (1:25 PM)
Pete - Here's the thing. The big money is made in the second half of the year and in the playoffs. So if they can still get a 50-game season in, along with a full playoff, there's still money to be made this season. That's what makes the next couple weeks so crucial in these talks.
Hi Craig- If we don't see a deal struck by the drop dead date, and the season is cancelled what is the PA's next move. Decertification ? Continue negotiation on a deal that is apparently close ? blow up salary cap system? etc, etc, etc..
Craig Custance (1:26 PM)
They've been very patient with decertification and it's clear Fehr's preferred method of getting a deal done is through collective bargaining. But yeah, if things go sideways that has to be the next step. Players have been very careful not to threaten it because you don't want the NHL beating them to the courts with a lawsuit but it's definitely an issue hanging over these negotiations.
Hi Mr. Custance! Let us say that the lockout ends before New Year's Day. Is there any chance that the Winter Classic could still be played? Second, could this lockout affect the re-alignment of teams such as the Jets being misplaced?
Craig Custance (1:29 PM)
Hi Steven! The league would like to make a splash with its return to hockey if that happens, that's why you heard some speculation of Christmas Day games and now you're hearing New Year's Eve or New Year's Day as a potential season opener. But the plug truly is pulled on the Winter Classic. It's such a huge event and logistical challenge that they'd already have to be working on it somewhere right now.
Any word on whether the parties discussed the unwritten rule about GM's not signing other teams RFA's? Outside of Weber, there really haven't been many big attempts in recent years (total of seven offer sheets signed in the past 14 years!). It could be argued that the NHL is colluding on this issue to some extent, and it must be driving down the salaries of skilled younger players as a result. I just don't understand why the NHLPA hasn't make a big deal out of this?
Craig Custance (1:31 PM)
I think it's more an issue that GMs don't necessarily like that as a tool to build their teams. The Weber offer sheet kind of shot down collusion talk and when you think about the teams capable of paying big money on offer sheets, it's usually a cap team. Those teams can't afford to overpay for players, like you have to do to land an offer sheet, and still manage cap space. The only thing I don't understand is why more teams don't take a run at some younger guys who aren't necessarily a star player.
Chris (Brighton )
What do you make of the timing of Mr. Ilitch's new stadium announcement? It takes a lot of guts to ask for public money for a new barn during a very unpopular lock out. Perhaps he thought they would have had a deal last week?
Craig Custance (1:32 PM)
Not sure about the timing, but I'm in Detroit and there's been backlash about funding this project when it comes at the expense of other public interests. Same as any arena project. The Ilitch's have been great for downtown and I think they find a way to get this built though. Would be great for a city that has some really cool areas developing downtown right now.
Me A Guy from Tx was just listening to Hockey Central from Toronto, Thank you M. CUBANHow do U think the Lockout has been reported on this time as opposed to last. Has the Interrnet, Social Media, (Blogs, Twitter) changed it. Hurt, helped, No change? In My Opinion I thought the CANADIAN Hockey media had as much to do with the Lockout in 2004 as the combatants did. Your Friends from the North are a WEIRD Lot. Hockey starts New Years eve. Churla and Grimson throw out the First Drunk or just drop the Puck, what ever comes first GAME ON!.
Craig Custance (1:35 PM)
Social media has been an interesting addition to this lockout. For one, it's given the fans more of a voice than they had last time. I've watched countless fan videos and looked at petitions and things like that. Now, I'm not sure they make any impact on negotiations, but the voice of the fan has definitely been louder.
Will the 5 year limit on contracts really hurt the middle class? The PA was offering 6 I thought.
Craig Custance (1:36 PM)
Jared - PA offered eight. League offered 5 for UFAs from other teams and 7 to sign your own guys. But yeah, the two sides are split on this. I wrote about it yesterday but there will clearly be less money in the current system if superstars come with a dramatically higher cap hit.
Nashville broke the bank to keep Shea Weber. By keeping contract lengths to 5 and 7 years, would it not allow the small market teams to have more of a chance to compete for free agents? Doesn't that also allow the average players the chance to make more money since less money would tied up in the star players? I just don't see what the NHLPA have against allowing the average player to make more money.
Craig Custance (1:38 PM)
Aaron - The players argue that if stars aren't able to spread their cap hit over longer period of years, there will be less money for the middle class to split up. I think the 5/7 split gives the home team more leverage since they can offer their own players more security. Could be a good thing for small markets in that regard. That's the beauty of these CBAs is we can make projections but sometimes there are consequences we never imagined.
So far, the Anaheim Ducks have given me 5% interest on my season ticket plan, 2 chances to skate at the Honda Center, and free tickets to a tennis event starring Andre Agassi. Any chance my relationship with the Ducks begins to include hockey any time soon?
Craig Custance (1:39 PM)
Alex - Glad to hear the DUcks taking care of their season ticket holders. That retention is going to be key to revenues once a deal gets done. I think you'll be watching hockey, not tennis in January.
Rick Dipietro (Long Island)
Craig, the owners justification for wanting the 5-year term limit on contracts is to prevent the marketplace from driving up the lengths of deals and then having players fail to live up to those deals. That being said, what one player do you think is the "poster boy" for "failing to live up to a long-term contract." It has to be me, right? I got the first 15-year deal (with no back diving, mind you) with the expectation that I would perform like a #1 overall pick and perennial vezina contender. Now nobody even remembers I am in the league....and I still have like 10 years to go! My one highlight of the past 6 seasons was getting punched in the face by Brent Johnson. I challenge you to come up with a better example. Oh wait, Alexei Yashin just texted me......
Craig Custance (1:41 PM)
Yeah, Rick, you'd be a good start on that list. I think more and more of these contracts are going to look bad as we move into the second half of them. One of the league's issues is that it becomes a liability on the team. If I'm looking to buy a team and some washed up player is still on the books for the next 10 years, I'm thinking twice. At the very least, it hurts the value.
IF they can come to an agrrement soon enough to start playing New Years Eve...how many games do you think they could get in this Season?
Craig Custance (1:42 PM)
Bill - I thought if there was a deal struck last week, the possibility of a 56-58 game season was reasonable. You don't want to put the players health at risk by pushing 60. So I still think you can get in a 50-55 game season at this point, which is enough to legitimize a season.
Bill Murray (Groundhogs Day)
Craig, would you say that tomorrow's CBA meeting is "absolutely crucial to saving the season"....in other words if the meeting does not go well then the whole season will be cancelled. Pierre Lebrun has been making that same statement for two months...and here we are still having more meetings. But I swear they are serious this time. Pinky swear. No backsies.
Hey Craig, thanks for the laborious work you and your colleagues have putting in over the last few months. I was just curious why players who signed huge contracts in the off-season, such as Sutter and Parise, take a stand and exploit a little leverage. In other words, make a public statement that if a deal isn't struck by this date, by these terms, they will demand a trade once a deal is struck? What's the risk other than the hold out that already exists?
Craig Custance (1:45 PM)
Braden - That's an interesting thought. Knowing the personalities of both players, it would never happen though. You'd just be demanding a trade to another owner who is locking you out, not sure how that would create leverage. The thing about those two is they're locked up for a long, long time in Minny, there's no reason to start it off on an ugly note.
Corey Perry (Anaheim, CA)
Craig, this proposed five year term limit on player contracts is BS! Ryan Getzlaf is sitting next to me by the pool right now and nodding vigorously.....
Craig Custance (1:46 PM)
Yeah, it would impact a lot of prominent players in the next couple years including you guys, Mike Smith, Evgeni Malkin, Letang. That's why it's become such an issue.
There are some teams with big contracts coming up in the next couple of years, particularly Chicago. Under a new CBA is it feasible for them to keep both Kane and Toews with the big contracts they already have? Are there other teams in similar situations?
Craig Custance (1:48 PM)
Kelly - I haven't looked at Chicago's cap situation beyond this season so not sure if the math works. I do know this: There was some grumbling among GMs who have gone to great lengths to plan out a long-term winning team that are concerned they're going to scrap the blueprint to some extent in the new system. There are also some GMs who don't have an ounce of sympathy for those guys.
sharkeliot (San Jose,ca)
Hey Craig, How about 8 year contracts. First 5 guaranteed. The last 3 years not guaranteed. During year 4 team can pick up the option for the last year. If they do then they can trade them. If not after year 5 player is a free agent.
Craig Custance (1:49 PM)
Ooh boy, you start talking about non-guaranteed contracts and it would get ugly. But perhaps some sort of tiered system based on the players age would be good. Maybe they just need some creativity at this point.
I've never really understood why the cap hit doesn't just match the salary paid in that year. If you insist on paying a guy $15mil in year 1 and $1.5mil in year 10, then why isn't there just a $15mil cap hit in year one and a $1.5mil hit in year 10? Wouldn't that pretty much eliminate the back-diving contracts? What am I missing?
Craig Custance (1:50 PM)
I think there are some general managers who would support your plan. To me, the key to getting rid of those deals is the variance. Not sure you need both a 5 percent variance and 5-year max.
Hi Craig Custance. If you ask me, the NHL and NHLPA should settle their remaining differences the old fashioned way, by having Gary Bettman and his lieutenants literally lace their skates and play three 20 minute periods in a winner takes all game against Donald Fehr and his lieutenants. Surely a sporting event that has a pot of almost $200 million for the winner would rate as one of the most, if not the most, watched sporting events in the history of televised sports, perhaps its advertising rates would equal the almost $200 million that the NHL and NHLPA are fighting over.
Craig Custance (1:51 PM)
Do Brendan Shanahan, Rob Blake and Mathieu Schneider get to play?
DONCHERRYPARODY (COACHES CORNER)
YKNOW CHRIS IF THE NHL JUST PUT GARY BETTMAN IN ONE A THEM WATER TANKS WHERE YA THROW A BALL AT THE THINGY AND THEN BAMMO, YA HIT IT, THE GUY GOES IN THE COLD WATER, CHARGE 2 BUCKS A POP AND EVERYTHINK LIKE THAT, THEYD MAKE BAZILLIONS AND NOT NEED A LOCKOUT! BAWANGO! LET'S GO!
Craig Custance (1:52 PM)
Clearly Bettman cannot award the Stanley Cup if and when the time finally comes. I propose that a representative (present or past player / coach / GM of significance) of the prior year's team to win The Cup presents it to the next winner. Kinda like the Green Jacket Ceremony at The Masters. Whaddaya think?
Craig Custance (1:53 PM)
I had one player suggest that it was something they'd throw out there but here's the thing: Are you really going to hold up a CBA agreement over who awards the Stanley Cup. But I do like your idea. Especially honoring a past winner.
How close is close lol. What's the percentage of how close they are
Craig Custance (1:54 PM)
Chris - Depends on who you ask. I don't think the league believes they are as close as the players believe. Tough to pin down with a number because there are still a couple key issues to resolve.
I am not stupid enough to believe any kind of fan boycot would work when this gets settled but how about fans stay quiet for the first period of the first game back.
Craig Custance (1:55 PM)
Tim - I'm in favor of anything the fans do to make both sides think twice about putting hockey through this again next CBA.
So basically, re: contract lengths, the players have to protect the owners from themselves? If they want to limit contract lengths there should be something big in it for the players. Seems like all the movement has come from players in this whole deal.
Craig Custance (1:57 PM)
Matt - I guess the big thing is they get to play. But yeah, you're right that when you compare the offers being made now to the final year of the last CBA the players are making significant movement. And yes, you're protecting owners from themselves, or at least future owners of that team.
Curious about what would happen to Wade Redden if no amnesty and his contract goes back to counting against the cap. Stay in AHL? Rangers call him up maybe? Trade?Also, Rangers would be in HUGE trouble next offseason if this is the case and no amnesty buyouts
Craig Custance (1:59 PM)
Yeah, I don't anticipate the ability to bury money in the minors during the next CBA. Perhaps, one of the transition rules will be allowing teams to pay part of the salary of a player in order to trade them and free cap space. Transition rules are one of the hangups right now. Redden can still play in the NHL, it's just his pricetag keeping him out.
Johnny Lawrence (Receda, CA)
Craig, I LOVE Doubles' idea of having a representative from last years winner award the Stanley Cup instead of Bettman. I did the same thing to Daniel-San at the end of the All Valley Karate Championship and it was one of the greatest shows of sportsmanship of all time! After he beat me AND stole my girl!
Craig Custance (1:59 PM)
You're all class, Johnny!
Craig Custance (2:00 PM)
Alright everyone, that's a wrap. Thanks so much for the great questions and participation.- Craig