NHL Trade Rumors: Latest Draft-Related Chatter

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2014

NHL Trade Rumors: Latest Draft-Related Chatter

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    The NHL draft (June 27-28) in Philadelphia is fast approaching, leaving hockey fans wondering which prospects their favorite teams will selectespecially in the opening round.

    It's also a time when trade rumors significantly increase. With the playoffs over, all 30 NHL teams can now make trades with each other.

    With the draft sandwiched between the end of the playoffs and the July 1 start date for unrestricted free agency, speculation always rises over blockbuster deals involving NHL superstars.

    It's something of an NHL offseason tradition.

    Given James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail's report that the salary cap could rise from $64.3 million to $69.6 million in 2014-15, the limited depth in this summer's free-agent market and the possibility that at least one top-10 pick could be dealt, this year's draft could be the busiest in years for trade activity.

    Here's a look at recent media trade chatter heading toward the 2014 NHL draft. The talent level of the players, their availability and the value of the draft picks on this list factored into the rankings.

    Feel free to weigh in with your opinions. Act fast, as some of these rumored deals could take place when the curtain rises on the opening round of the draft on June 27.

8. Detroit Red Wings Interested in Joe Thornton

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The Rumor: TSN.ca's Pierre LeBrun recently reported the Red Wings expressed interest in San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton.

    Analysis: Following yet another disappointing playoff performance by the Sharks, there's been talk of changes to their lineup. Thornton's been mentioned as a possible trade candidate. The Score.com's Ian McLaren cited a report by TVASports.ca claiming Thornton's agent and brother, John Thornton, said his client only wants to play for the Sharks. Joe starts a new three-year contract on July 1 with a full no-movement clause. If he wants to stay in San Jose, there's little management can do to change his mind.

    Prediction: The Wings were exercising due diligence by investigating Thornton's availability, but Detroit fans shouldn't expect to see him wearing the Winged Wheel anytime soon.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs Interested in Dan Boyle

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    The Rumor: The Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren reports there's speculation the Toronto Maple Leafs could acquire defenseman Dan Boyle from the New York Islanders.

    Analysis: The Islanders acquired Boyle's rights from the San Jose Sharks earlier this month but failed to re-sign him.They are now trying to trade his rights before he qualifies for unrestricted free agency on July 1. The Leafs need to bolster their defense, but what they need are experienced, shutdown blueliners. Boyle, who turns 38 in July, doesn't fit that role.

    Prediction: Unless the Leafs are shedding a younger defenseman in favor of adding experience, they could pass on Boyle.

6. New York Islanders Willing to Trade 5th Overall Pick

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    Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke/Associated Press

    The Rumor: New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow could trade his first-round pick (fifth overall) for immediate roster help.

    Analysis: “We're open to trading the pick for someone we think can come in and help us right away,” Snow told Newsday's Arthur Staple. According to Staple, the Isles GM could use that pick as part of a package to land a top-two defenseman or a top-line left winger.

    Prediction: It'll take more than that pick to fetch a return that addresses the Islanders' needs. Staple claims Snow can draw upon his depth in defensive prospects, though promising Griffin Reinhart is considered untouchable. Perhaps by targeting a club with limited cap space (Boston, Philadelphia), Snow might find what he seeks.

5. Bruins Could Swap Johnny Boychuk for a Scoring Winger

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    The Rumor: If the Boston Bruins fail to re-sign Jarome Iginla, they could be forced into the trade market to replace him. Johnny Boychuk could become trade bait for a scoring winger.

    Analysis: The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa reports the Bruins hope to re-sign pending free-agent right winger Jarome Iginla. However, they currently have $3.7 million in cap space. Shinzawa notes the Bruins face a cap penalty of around $4.5 million in 2014-15 for bonus overages related to Iginla's contract this season. If Iginla departs, Shinzawa believes defenseman Johnny Boychuk would fetch the best return.

    Even if they re-sign Iginla, they'll still have limited cap space to re-sign Torey Krug and Reilly Smith. They must also find a backup goalie for Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask. They could also try moving Chris Kelly ($3 million) or Adam McQuaid ($1.5 million). 

    Prediction: If Iginla walks, Chiarelli could entertain offers for Boychuk but won't move him unless it's for a provenand affordableright-wing scorer.

4. Florida Panthers Still Shopping 1st Overall Pick

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    The Rumor: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon claims about 8-10 teams have expressed interest in the first overall pick and he's received a couple of “concrete offers.”

    Analysis: Tallon is willing to trade the pick for a return which will help his club right away. The Panthers desperately need scoring punch. Their leading scoring this season (Nick Bjugstad) had only 38 points, while Brad Boyes led them in goals with only 21.

    Prediction: Tallon won't just give away that pick. Unless he gets a firm offer involving at least a scoring winger as part of the return, he'll retain the pick. Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel suggests Florida would then lean toward using it on Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

3. The Blackhawks Could Move Patrick Sharp

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    The Rumor: The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus reports Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman could make a major move this weekend for a second-line center. Lazerus claimed winger Patrick Sharp's name has popped up as a trade candidate. Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos (h/t Sportsnet's Mike Johnston) also claimed Sharp could be available.

    Analysis: The Blackhawks have limited cap space ($4.6 million) for 2014-15. They must also ensure sufficient long-term cap room to re-sign Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane before their eligibility for unrestricted free agency next summer.

    Sharp, who tallied a career-best 78 points in 2013-14, would certainly attract interest from teams seeking a first-line scoring winger. He has three more years at an annual cap hit of $5.9 million on his contract. He also holds a modified no-trade clause, limiting potential destinations.

    Prediction: Sharp might be willing to waive his clause, but it won't just be for anyone. His preference could be a trade to another playoff contender. If so, that could make moving him for a second-line center a difficult task.

2. Ryan Kesler to Chicago or Pittsburgh

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    The Rumor: The Vancouver Canucks will trade center Ryan Kesler, but he's only interested in going to the Chicago Blackhawks or Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Analysis: The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch made the claim about the Blackhawks or Penguins as Kesler's only preferred destinations. Earlier this spring, however, CBC.ca's Elliotte Friedman reported the Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning were also on Kesler's list. If the Blackhawks are interested, their lack of cap space ($4.6 million) is a problem. They'll have to make a dollar-for-dollar deal or get the Canucks to pick up half of Kesler's $5 million annual salary to make a deal work.

    Canucks GM Jim Benning could prefer shipping Kesler to an Eastern Conference team. If new Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is keen to shake things up, he could pursue a Kesler deal, though he'll have to part with a scoring forward in return.

    Prediction: Kesler might have to expand his list of preferred trade destinations. Otherwise, moving him to only Chicago or Pittsburgh could prove quite difficultif not impossible.

1. Jason Spezza to Anaheim or St. Louis

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    The Rumor: The Ottawa Senators are shopping captain Jason Spezza. The Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues are considered the front-runners.

    Analysis: Unlike many trade rumors, this one's based in fact. According to the Ottawa Citizen's Wayne Scanlan, Senators GM Bryan Murray acknowledged last week that he's open to trading Spezza, saying he's had two solid offers already. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports the Ducks and Blues have extensive interest in the longtime Senators center. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford reports the Blues have inquired about Spezza and Vancouver's Ryan Kesler to address their need for a top-end center.

    Prediction: Murray is expected to trade Spezza before the start of the opening round of the NHL draft, as he'll want a first-round pick as part of the return. He has a recent trade history with the Ducks and could try to move Spezza to Anaheim in hopes of getting one of the Ducks' two first-round picks. One of those (10th overall) is the pick the Sens sent to the Ducks last summer as part of the Bobby Ryan trade.

    Salary-cap and contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com.