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January 31, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Craig Custance

Andrew (Chicago)

Loved the outpouring of support for Alfredsson during the all-star weekend, but do you think he will be in the Hall of Fame in the end? No cups and only a point-per-game player...

Craig Custance
  (2:03 PM)

Hello everyone! Back from Ottawa and ready to chat!Let's start with Andrew's question: To me, the love for Daniel Alfredsson was the highlight of the All-Star game. Deciding between Alfie and Marian Gaborik for MVP was a tough choice. The Hall of Fame call is even tougher but I'm putting him in. He's the face of the Senators franchise and the best player in franchise history. He has over 1,000 career points is an incredible ambassador for the game. I realize he never won a Stanley Cup but he still has a couple years to change that if he decides to play beyond this season. Plus, he won a gold medal with Sweden and that counts. It's the hockey hall of fame, not the NHL hall of fame. I'd put him in.

kurt (Buff)

Craig, are you hearing anything out of Buffalo? I know the name Derek Roy keeps popping up, but I am wondering what is being floated out in return.

Craig Custance
  (2:08 PM)

The challenge with the Sabres at the deadline is they have so many long-term contracts that it makes it hard for Darcy Regier to make any deals. The reason I think you're hearing Roy's name come up is his contract is reasonable. One more year at $4 million after this one and he's one of the few legitimate point producers who could be had at the deadline. It would be a pretty significant return if the Sabres decided to move him because there's not many sellers right now. I think he'd fall into the category of a first-round pick, plus a strong prospect to start talks.

Steve (Palo Alto)

Hi Craig, other than moving Niittymaki, what move do you think Doug Wilson makes this month?

Craig Custance
  (2:11 PM)

The Sharks are expecting Martin Havlat to return soon and that's a big help for them. I know the organization really likes Tommy Wingels and they have to decide if they want to acquire a veteran player or let a player like Wingels expand his role down the stretch. I'm not sure that decision is made yet. It'll come down to health, but it wouldn't hurt to add someone capable of playing in the top six. Maybe a player like Tampa's Dominic Moore.

Toby (DC)

Do you agree with fellow-ESPNer Buccigross' claim that one of, if not the, most disappointing thing about Sidney Crosby being injured is: this is the best Penguins team he's ever played with...? Where do you think the Pens will finish in the Atlantic?

Craig Custance
  (2:14 PM)

I think Bucci is spot on. Pittsburgh's defense, when healthy, is as good as it's been. James Neal has found another gear this season and Malkin is playing as well as he ever has. If you factored in a healthy Sidney Crosby, the Pens become the Eastern Conference favorite. I'd pick them over the Bruins. Right now, I think the Rangers will finish first in the Atlantic but would pencil the Penguins in second over the Flyers.

david (nj)

what do you think about the devils-islanders preseason game that will be played in brooklyn? you think the isles will move there?also who should the devils go after at the TD?

Craig Custance
  (2:16 PM)

David - To me it's an indication that moving the Islanders to Brooklyn is a very real option. At some point, that franchise needs to find a permanent home. The Devils are broke. I don't see them making any significant additions. All indications are that Zach Parise is sticking around and NJ fans will have to be content with that. Could be worse.

pretty much (concussed)

How about playing the Winter Ice Classic in the arctic?

Craig Custance
  (2:18 PM)

A little too cold

R.D. (Parts unknown)

What route do you think the Wings go at the Deadline? Big (Parise), Medium (Ruutu, Hemsky) or small (Moen)?

Craig Custance
  (2:19 PM)

Put me down for one medium and one small.

Mark (Seattle)

Hey Craig:Do you find it as interesting as I do that Schneider is getting the big starts (Boston and now Chicago) over Luongo? Maybe Vigneault thinks he is a fragile as many others do?

Craig Custance
  (2:21 PM)

Mark - I truly believe that Schneider got the start in Boston because that's his hometown. Maybe I'm naive but I didn't read too much into that one. And this move today is consistent with how Vigneault handled the goalie situation coming out of the break last year. I'm not ready to make any conclusions.

Phyllis (San Francisco, CA)

Dear Craig, do you think either Tampa or Anaheim can pull off a movie montage-style comeback and claw their way back into the playoffs, or are they too far gone? Do you see either team making any trade deadline moves?

Craig Custance
  (2:24 PM)

No way on Tampa. I'm not totally ruling it out for Anaheim. It'd be a lot more likely if they were in the East but the attitude has really shifted with the Ducks. And they're getting great goaltending from Jonas Hiller. I don't see them making the playoffs but they can certainly build some momentum under Boudreau that carries into next season.As for trades, I think we'll see both ultimately make deals at the deadline. Dominic Moore will be in demand for Tampa and the Ducks may end up moving Visnovsky and Blake.

Muha (Pittsburgh)

Do you think the Penguins recent success will force them to be quieter at the deadline?

Craig Custance
  (2:25 PM)

Ray Shero said this weekend that the injuries and uncertainty surrounding Crosby and others will force him to be pretty patient. I think any decisions made by the Penguins will be made much closer to the 27th.

Suburban Rhythm (Pittsburgh)

Which current team towards the top of the standings is the biggest fraud? Conversely, which team might squeak in as a #7 or #8, but cause some problems?

Craig Custance
  (2:27 PM)

I'm not calling Ottawa a fraud because I have too much respect for the work Paul MacLean has done but I think their spot in the standings is a little misleading. They are currently No. 6 but have played three more games than the No. 9 Leafs. I wouldn't be surprised if Ottawa finished outside the top eight. As for a scary No. 7 or 8 seed, I'd want no part of the Kings in the first round.

Owen Durkin (Ivory Coast)

Good day from Africa, any chance at all that Ryan Miller is moved? Recent comments suggest he might welcome the chance to play for a contender...cheers

Craig Custance
  (2:29 PM)

Our first question from Africa! Thanks for joining us Owen. Ryan Miller has repeatedly said no chance to wanting to be traded. I think he wants to be part of the solution in Buffalo, not abandon it.

Bradford (Washington, DC)

Do you think that Jeff Carter gets moved, either at the deadline or before the draft? And do you think that Columbus gets back anywhere close to what they gave up for them?

Craig Custance
  (2:31 PM)

Columbus would ideally like to get a return similar to what they gave up to acquire Carter but I just can't see it right now. He's shown an inability to stay healthy and his contract is prohibitive. I'd be surprised if they are able to get as big a return as they gave up for him.

Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)

Craig, in response to Muha above, do you think the Pens are set up to make a big forward addition at the trade deadline? While Crosby is on IR, they have 8.7M in cap room to use. Then if Crosby comes back for the playoffs, salaries will not matter because the salary cap is not applicable for the post-season and you can go over it by having injured guys come back or calling guys up. Shero did this with Satan in 2009. As long as the guy they trade for is UFA, the cap crunch will solve itself in the offseason. Shane Doan is the guy I would want in this scenario.

Craig Custance
  (2:34 PM)

Jesse - Then you're telling Sid he can't come back until the playoffs. We're expecting some Crosby news today but if he's ready to play during the regular season, they're not going to hold him out of the lineup. I wouldn't count on his cap space.Also, every indication right now from Phoneix is that Shane Doan doesn't want to go anywhere. It'll be his call and he's pretty connected to that franchise.

David (Maryland)

Do you think the CAPS make a move for a center or defenceman come the deadline wiht the uncertain injuries to Nick Backstrom and Mike Green?

Craig Custance
  (2:36 PM)

Such a tough call. If they can get a decent return for Semin, maybe that's the route GM George McPhee will go. I'm not sure this team is poised to make a long playoff run, so the timing may not be right for McPhee to add a bunch at the deadline. We'll see.

Matt (Chicago)

Do you think the Hawks might do something bold like add a winger like Doan or Selanne? This would have to come closer to the deadline or do you see them making several small moves to improve their depth and grit?

Craig Custance
  (2:37 PM)

I see GM Stan Bowman being aggressive at the deadline but I see him targeting defense with the Brendan Morrison deal done. In a perfect world he's getting a No. 3 d-man but he might have to settle for a four. It's too bad Gleason signed, he would have been a great fit.

Drake (Ottawa)

Who has better hair in person, LeBrun or Burnside?

Craig Custance
  (2:38 PM)

Haha - there's only one ESPN hockey employee in the hair conversation and that's Melrose.

Jackson (Nashville, TN)

What do you think ends up happening with Ryan Suter? What kind of player is Nashville going to try to pick up for the playoff push? And how far do you think the Preds go this season?

Craig Custance
  (2:40 PM)

If I had to bet the mortgage right now, my prediction would be that the Predators keep Suter at the deadline, trade for some help on offense and try to make a run with this team. If things don't work out, Suter's rights gets traded at the draft for a second-round pick or maybe conditional first. I think any team that makes the playoffs in the West, especially from the Central is capable of winning multiple rounds in the playoffs.

Matt (Chicago)

Then a follow up question to my earlier Hawks question, would the Hawks take a run at Jack Johnson if he is indeed available?

Craig Custance
  (2:41 PM)

I have received a couple questions on the availability of Jack Johnson and that's the first I've heard of that. I'll look into it.

Paul (Philadelphia)

With Ovechkin's huge drop in performance the past 2 years, when does it become time for the hockey world to stop calling it a down-year and take him out of the "elite" and "top 10" player categories.

Craig Custance
  (2:43 PM)

I think he has been downgraded. He used to be in the 'Best PLayer in the World' conversation and that's not the case anymore. He's still capable of scoring 35-40 goals this season which I would categorize as elite. I'm not sure he's in my top ten right now though.

Rick (Boston,MA)

Best rink to watch an NHL game? Loudest?

Craig Custance
  (2:45 PM)

I love watching games at Madison Square Garden, although that may be just because they put us so close. Hard to pick the loudest -- loudest crowd I think I've ever witnessed live was in Vancouver when Canada won the gold. Complete pandemonium when Crosby scored.

alex (fla)

Best thing for the Wild? Wait and get healthy or make a trade?

Craig Custance
  (2:47 PM)

Wait and get healthy. I don't think that team is at the stage where they should be making trades unless it's a pure hockey deal. Maybe dealing a goalie for some help.

Andrew (Toronto)

Quick one...what have you heard about Ryane Clowe? The situation seems strange, with him playing right after the injury, and now on the IR indefinitely.

Craig Custance
  (2:48 PM)

Only spoke to Doug Wilson about Clowe's trade availability and he said there's a 'zero chance' he's moved. Not sure on the injury status.

Matt (Chicago)

So is Winnipeg still going to be in the southeast next year? And IF phoenix were to relocate what is more likely: Seattle, Kansas City or Quebec?

Craig Custance
  (2:48 PM)

Yes on Winnipeg. And if I had to pick the favorite right now to land the Coyotes, I'd say Seattle.

Matt (Chicago)

In order to placate the NHLPA realignment concerns, which is more likely? Expanding to 32 teams, staying at 30 or contracting to 28?

Craig Custance
  (2:49 PM)

I think we'll ultimately see 32 teams in the NHL and it's going to happen over the course of the next CBA agreement, assuming the CBA is in the 8-10 year range.

AJ (Anywhere)

Why is Columbus hosting the ASG next yr? Poor management and outside of Nash who should get a medal for staying there, why go there, the whole bringing visibility to the area gets a little old.

Craig Custance
  (2:52 PM)

It's a market that needs a boost and it's in the best interests of the league to help out its struggling franchises. I think that was part of the appeal to the league's realignment plan, it helped teams like Dallas and Columbus. So do events like the All-Star game. And yes, Rick Nash deserves credit for sticking with the team that drafted him. I'm not sure I would be so patient.

Sean (Toronto, Canada)

Are you friends with Matt in Chicago?

Craig Custance
  (2:52 PM)

Haha - no. Just liked the question.

Mel (Ottawa)

If the Sens happen to fall slightly out of the playoff race and maybe miss it by being in 9th or 10th place, does McLean still get recognition with a Jack Adams nomination for all the great work he's done?

Craig Custance
  (2:54 PM)

For sure. He may not win it but he'll be in the hunt. That's an award that typically recognizes coaches who overachieve and MacLean has definitely done that in Ottawa. A lot of us, myself included, penciled them in for No. 29 or 30 so even if they finished No. 9 in the East, they've overachieved.

cnp (new york city)

How do you pick the questions?

Craig Custance
  (2:54 PM)

I give extra weight towards people who don't submit the same question 15 times.

Ice Ace (Alabama)

Do the Panthers make any moves to bolster their offense outside their top line?

Craig Custance
  (2:56 PM)

The Panthers are an interesting team at the deadline. I know Dale Tallon doesn't have the biggest budget to play with but I'm sure he'd like to reward his players if they continue to fight for the Southeast title. They have enough prospects that he might add some depth although I'm not expecting anything crazy.

Matt (LA)

With rumors that Parise and Suter aren't moving before the deadline how much less exciting will February be?

Craig Custance
  (2:58 PM)

Matt - There's always surprises. The Erik Johnson deal came out of nowhere and that was a huge blockbuster. As more teams drop out of the playoff race, more players are going to become available. And with the uncertain CBA we may see some teams try and move some big contracts. I think it'll still be exciting.

Alex (Brooklyn)

Okay, so stop at 14 submissions - noted.

Craig Custance
  (2:58 PM)

Yeah, 14 is my cutoff.

Ben (San Jose)

How long before a small market team makes it into the WC?

Craig Custance
  (3:00 PM)

Glad to see the upstart Maple Leafs get a crack at the game. Ben - it's a huge event where interest and TV ratings play a big part in who gets selected so I don't think there's a big rush to get small market teams in the game just yet. It may take awhile.

@DonCherryParody (Coach's Corner)


Craig Custance
  (3:02 PM)

And with that, we're done. Thanks everyone for joining in! Always a great time, sorry if I missed you. If I did, click on the mailbag link ( and send it in for Friday's mailbag. I'll do my best to get it in there. Thanks!