Caps, Rangers D-men spark questions

The Caps and Rangers both face questions on the blue line. USA TODAY Sports

What’s the best way for the Capitals to add a defenseman? What should the Kings do in goal? Are Michael Del Zotto's days in New York numbered? All this and more in this week's hockey mailbag. If you want to be featured in next week’s mailbag, send your questions, hockey ideas and observations here.

Not necessarily against ending fighting personally, but my concern is that if a hypothetical ban (whether through stronger penalties like a one-game auto suspension for the first fight and lengthier ones for multiple fights or an all-out ban) were put in place without a better and more strict job by the league in policing the game both in normal infractions and in embellishment, it would result in more cheap shots and more injuries than leaving fighting as it is. Are there any rumblings (on either side, given that it would probably need both league and PA approval to make that significant of changes) of willingness to go that far in penalty enforcement?

Sean, SoCal

At the recent Board of Governors meeting, Gary Bettman said ownership was very pleased with the current performance of Brendan Shanahan and the department of player safety. There was no sense that they wanted him to increase the number of games being handed out through suspension. But you raise a good point. If fighting is ultimately banned in some form, then it’s almost completely on the league at that point to do the policing. If that becomes the case, I think that a ban on fighting would have to be accompanied by harsher penalties from Shanahan and company. And like you mentioned, Sean, it’s not a one-sided conversation. The NHLPA has a say in this and, considering the appeals we’ve seen for the longer suspensions, you get the sense that it is not too eager to sign off on the league hammering its players, even if it is for the ultimate protection of its members.

I'm surprised you're in favor of banning fighting. For me, fighting is something that, by rule, should be spontaneous. No "staged fights," but I definitely still want it to be a part of the sport. If there are no fights, how will players be held accountable for cheap hits? Don't you think things will get uglier without consequences if fighting is removed from the game? Not to mention that it's one of the more exciting things that happens if it happens during a game. I was at the Blues/Leafs game and Roman Polak and David Clarkson got into a spontaneous, spirited fight after the whistle, and it was great. I'd hate to see that go away. Thanks.

Jay, St. Louis

I’m in favor of banning fighting or making the punishment for fighting much more severe but it comes from a realistic place. I realize you’ll never get rid of fighting in hockey and I’m fine with that. There isn't a sport where fighting doesn't occasionally break out over the natural course of events that take place. If baseball players think a pitcher is taking liberties, they charge the mound. They still police extreme circumstances themselves and I’m OK with it in that context. The staged fights between two heavyweights have to go. It's well past time for harsher consequences for fighting in the NHL.

As a longtime Caps fan, I'm pretty frustrated with the lack of good defensemen signed and/or traded for over the last few years. Fans react to another team getting a player they like if the price seems right, myself included. What I'd like to know is how difficult is it really? Say GMGM wants a top-four defenseman, what does he have to do or is it even in his hands?

Max, NYC

Adding a top four defenseman through trade or free agency isn’t an easy proposition.