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E.J. Mailbag: Sharks moves, Devils captain and more

by EJ Hradek /
Who says there aren't many entries on hockey's August calendar? Not me! I just returned from Slovakia and the Czech Republic where I was fortunate enough to get a look at a great many of the top prospects in the draft class of 2012 at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. There had to be more than 100 amateur scouts/executives from each of the League's 30 teams eyeballing the talent.
This week, I'm headed to Toronto for the NHL's second Research, Development and Orientation Camp. Brendan Shanahan, the League's Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, and the rest of the hockey ops department will take a look at several different rule changes and variations under game conditions on Wednesday and Thursday.
Those test games will be played by 40 top draft eligibles. That means at least a few of the kids that participated in the Hlinka tournament will be part of the group in Toronto. That's a pretty busy travel schedule for those kids.
As you would expect, we'll have extensive coverage of the RDO Camp right here at For now, though, let me take a swing at a few of your questions.
Did the Sharks give up too much offense in trying to revamp their roster? -- @TheNouJ

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Every Tuesday and Friday, analyst EJ Hradek shares his take on all the offseason news.

I don't think so. I felt they really needed another top-four (top-two) defenseman to complement their roster. For me, as they were previously constructed, they just didn't have enough on the blue line to get past the last few hurdles on the road to a championship.
To get a player like Brent Burns, you have to give something significant on your end. The most valuable asset that they moved in that deal might end up being top prospect Charlie Coyle. If he develops like several scouts believe he will, the Sharks might have some regret about including him in the deal. But, again, you're not going to get a high-end defender for nothing.
General manager Doug Wilson's decision to swap Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat seems more about fit. It was pretty clear that the club wasn't satisfied with Heatley's performance in the postseason. Wilson likely is hoping that Havlat will be reinvigorated by joining a top team. I guess we'll see about that. At his best, Havlat can back up defenders with his speed and skill. While Heatley possesses a lethal shot, he doesn't have the quickness or speed that Havlat can bring to the rink.
Do you think the Devils should make Parise captain or entice him to sign a long-term deal or will they go with Kovy or Elias? -- @chucksahoy
Well, general manager Lou Lamoriello seems to be making his best efforts at signing Zach Parise to a long-term deal. So we know they are trying to "entice" him.
In the past, teams have slapped the "C" on a player's sweater as a way of trying to keep them in the fold. The most obvious example that I can recall is what the Canucks did with Roberto Luongo. They decided to defy conventional thinking and name their goalie captain. After Luongo signed a long-term deal -- and the experiment was an obvious failure -- the club transferred the captaincy to Henrik Sedin.
In this case, not being a goalie, Parise is a more likely choice to be a captain. I could see that happening, but I might steer clear from making that move until his future in New Jersey has been settled one way or another. I believe the ongoing dialogue about his future will be enough of a cloud that follows the team throughout the season. Having him serve as captain, under the current circumstances, might be too uncomfortable.
In the short term, the Devils might be better off rotating the "C" within their leadership group during the upcoming season.
Is Quebec City a viable NHL city again? – @abs0lut0
When their new facility is built and they have a prospective ownership group with the financial wherewithal to operate a franchise in today's economic environment; then I'd say they would be a viable location.
The League was able to return to Winnipeg because both of those things were in place. If David Thomson (Forbes says he's the richest man in Canada and the 17th wealthiest in the world) weren't part of the new Jets ownership group, I'm not so sure there'd be any new Jets. You have to have both.
Who ends up with more points/is the No. 1 center in LA – Kopitar or Richards? -- @davdchapman
I think these two centers will complement each other quite nicely. I clearly see Anze Kopitar as a No. 1 center, while Mike Richards slots perfectly behind him as the No. 2. Both guys will get their share of opportunity.
I would expect Richards will be asked to play against an opponents' top center. In the Pacific Division, that means a lot of time against guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton. I'll be very curious to see how Kopitar recovers from his season-ending ankle injury as well as how Richards responds to the change of scenery.
Will Bryzgalov be as good in Philly as Phoenix? -- @SaundersDG

Ilya Bryzgalov posted a 36-20-10 record last season with the Coyotes. During that campaign Bryzgalov registered seven shutouts, a .921 save percentage and a 2.48 GAA. (Photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI)

The Flyers are gambling $51 million that he will be! Ilya Bryzgalov will be in a much different situation in Philadelphia. He'll be playing behind a more talented lineup with the Flyers. That means if things go as planned, he'll be asked less to win games and more not to lose them. That's not as easy as you might think. Some goalies can handle that different kind of pressure, while others can't.
Bryzgalov also must deal with the inherent pressure of playing in Philadelphia. If he doesn't get off to a good start, the home folks just might get on him. Actually, we can forget about might. They will. If it happens that way, can he handle that?
The Flyers' ownership/management team spent some time with their new goalie before taking the financial plunge. They were big time impressed by his demeanor. They feel he's their guy. While I believe that Bryzgalov is more than capable, I think he'll be faced with a pretty big challenge in Philly.
What happens if Doughty doesn't sign a contract? Does he become a FA or is it a holdout like in the NFL? -- @Trevor_Bo
Drew Doughty is a restricted free agent. He wouldn't become an unrestricted free agent, if he can't come to an agreement with the Kings. If he can't do a deal, technically he'd be a holdout.
A rival team could attempt to sign him to an offer sheet, but it's very clear the Kings will exercise their right to match. I don't see that as a realistic possibility at this point. In the end, I believe he'll eventually sign a new deal to stay in LA.
How many years does the best 171st draft pick ever, Pavel Datsyuk, have left in him? -- @Deathbeast69
It is always tricky to speculate about how long someone is going to be able to compete in the NHL or any professional sport. Datsyuk, who turned 33 last month, seems like one of those guys who'll be able to play late into his 30s, barring any significant injuries.
The elite Detroit star could probably get by for a good while on just his smarts and hockey sense. Like I say, you never know what's going to happen with a player, but I hope he'll be around for many years to come. The guy is among my very favorites to watch.
What kind of goalie rotation are the Capitals going to employ this year; 65-35 percent? -- @mikecsarnia
Like most every other coach, Bruce Boudreau is going to play whoever he feels gives his team the best chance to win. I expect him to start with veteran Tomas Vokoun, who comes to D.C. as a bargain free agent signing. If the 35-year-old Vokoun responds to the new challenge, I think he'll get the lion's share of the work. How that breaks down, I'm not sure.
If Vokoun struggles, Boudreau won't hesitate to turn to 23-year-old Michal Neuvirth, who played a career-best 48 regular season games last year. He also played in the club's nine playoff games.
I think the club's goalie rotation will come down to how well Vokoun performs. For the record, I'm still a big fan of young Braden Holtby. I can see him being their goaltender of the future.
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