Mail call: Penguins get their D-man 

March, 30, 2010

Let me start today's 'mailbag' blog update with a shout-out for the R.I.T. Tigers. Who would have figured the Atlantic Hockey champ would score back-to-back wins over long-time hockey powerhouses Denver and New Hampshire to earn a berth in the upcoming Frozen Four (April 8-10) in Detroit? I don't know too many people outside of Rochester who saw that coming. For that matter, there probably weren't a lot of folks in Rochester who would have foreseen such a shocking outcome, either.

Because of the tournament scheduling, the Tigers get about 10 days to savor their victories. The road to the championship doesn't get any easier for R.I.T., which face Wisconsin in one of the national semifinals next Thursday. Boston College challenges Miami (Ohio) in the other semi. I'll just offer a healthy heaping of good luck to all four clubs. Veteran hockey play-by-play man Gary Thorne will join blog buddy Barry Melrose at Ford Field to call the games for ESPN2 and ESPN. Have fun, guys.

And now, here are a few questions from the studio audience.

Hello E.J., What do you think of the Kris Letang contract? -- Bobby T, Monroeville, Penn.

Hi Bobby, a four-year deal that averages $3.5M per season sounds about right for Letang. The Montreal native, who turns 23 next month, is becoming a more important part of the team with each passing day. He could be an even more important part of their equation if Sergei Gonchar opts to leave via free agency over the summer. Penguins GM Ray Shero has done an excellent job in contract negotiations. When you look up and down the team's roster, you'll be hard pressed to find a bad contract. I'll be curious to see what Shero opts to do with his other free agent defensemen: Gonchar, Mark Eaton, Jay McKee and recently-acquired Jordan Leopold.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.