PHILADELPHIA – You talk to GMs here the day before the draft and you hear a common lament. “I’m trying like hell to get something done,” they say, “but right now it’s not happening.” This is not uncommon the day before the draft, particularly one with as many moving parts as the 2014 proceedings.
There has been a dearth of horsetrading and whether or not that’s the calm before the storm or a draft that has failed to live up to its hype when it comes to player movement essentially depends on three things. One of them is what Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon does with the No. 1 overall pick. Tallon has made it clear he’s willing to deal the pick, but the price he’s asking is too steep at the moment.
“Every draft is different,” said Toronto Maple Leafs GM David Nonis, “and when you’re looking at John Tavares who was sitting there at first overall (in 2009), that price tag is different than possibly moving up to take the player who’s going to go No. 1 here. It doesn’t mean the player who goes No. 1 is not going to be a great player, but those price tags are different and I think every team in the league would tell you that.”
The other two factors creating a logjam surround whether or not the Ottawa Senators will be successful in dealing Jason Spezza and what the Vancouver Canucks will do with Ryan Kesler. The St. Louis Blues signing Patrik Berglund to a three-year deal worth $11.1 million has added a layer of intrigue to this, since it has been long speculated that Berglund might be part of a package going back to the Senators for Spezza. And one would presume having Berglund under contract would provide the Senators with more of a degree of certainty. Senators GM Bryan Murray has made no secret of the fact that he wants a player, a prospect and first-round pick in exchange for Spezza. The package for Kesler will be just as high.
“It’s not unlike the deadline,” said Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving. “The (2014) deadline sort of hit the brakes when the potential of certain players being available sort of gridlocked everything. There have been a few names talked about publicly and I think a few teams are trying to figure out where that fits in and there’s a trickle-down effect. I don’t know that it’s necessarily preventing business from getting done, but those are things that probably affect other things.”
To a lesser extent, there’s also the Joe Thornton-Patrick Marleau situation with the San Jose Sharks and the extent to which they are available. It seems to be an open secret that the Sharks are shopping both of them in the hopes of trading one, with the most likely possibility Thornton. But both players have no movement clauses in their deals and have so far refused to waive them to be dealt anywhere.
“They’re basically telling the Sharks, ‘Look, we signed for less to stay here and we want to stay here,’ “ one agent said.
Another situation to watch is the one in Boston, where the Bruins are only $3.7 million under the cap, which essentially represents $7.7 million with Marc Savard on the long term injury list. But they still have to sign unrestricted free agent Jarome Iginla and restricted free agents Reilly Smith and Torey Krug. Part of the problem is that the Bruins have $4.75 million in cap space carrying over from this season to next season, in large part to fit Iginla’s incentive-laden contract into the salary cap. In order to sign him again, the Bruins are either going to have to get him to agree to a similar deal that will allow them to push bonus dollars to 2015-16 or rid themselves of salary – Loui Eriksson, Chris Kelly and Johnny Boychuk being the most likely candidates – in order to make room for Iginla.
One agent speculated that after a 30-goal season, Iginla has no need to accept a bonus-laden contract over guaranteed money, even if the bonuses are easily achieved, unless he absolutely wants to stay in Boston and won’t go anywhere else. If not, there will undoubtedly be teams that will happily offer him guaranteed money, which would basically take the Bruins out of the running.
Meanwhile, teams are taking advantage of the one-week window to talk to prospective free agents and, oh yeah, there is a draft to be held Friday. It has made for a couple of days full of frenetic activity and uncertainty. Treliving joked that he hasn’t slept since he arrived in Philadelphia because he’s spent the entire time on his phone. The Flames are picking at No. 4 and would like to get another top-10 pick for the right price.
“It takes two to tango and I’ve probably talked to every team,” Treliving said. “Some are probably ready to throw their phone out the window because I keep phoning them.”