Phil Kessel has been at the heart of trade rumors for much of the past year, but the situation could come to a close as soon as the NHL Draft weekend. Trade talks are reportedly heating up and there’s potential for him to belong to another club come the start of free agency. Meanwhile, the Rangers have to make decisions regarding Cam Talbot and Rick Nash, while the Canadiens will likely look to free up some cap space this off-season.
With the Stanley Cup playoffs finally over and the NHL Draft weekend (June 26-27) drawing near, speculation continues to grow over possible trade destinations for Toronto Maple Leafs winger Phil Kessel.
The 27-year-old right winger has a limited no-trade clause listing eight teams he will accept being dealt to. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reminded everyone those teams were Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal, New York Rangers, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh leading up to the March 2015 trade deadline.
Recently, there was talk of the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues Florida Panthers or Calgary Flames possibly pursuing the Leafs star. None of them were on his list. McKenzie suggested the Leafs could ask Kessel to broaden his list if they receive strong offers from other clubs. He also speculated Kessel could submit an updated list at the end of June.
The inclusion of the Bruins on Kessel’s list prompted CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty to examine the pros and cons of bringing him back to Boston. Considering the seven years remaining on Kessel’s contract (at an annual cap hit of $8 million), that’s far too rich to fit on the cap-strapped Bruins payroll.
NBC Sports’ Jason Brough raises the possibility of Kessel making it difficult for the Leafs to move him, pointing out all the clubs on his preferred trade list carry limited cap space.
RANGERS PLANNING MOVES THIS OFF-SEASON?
The lack of goaltending depth in this summer’s free-agent market is boosting the trade stock of New York Rangers backup Cam Talbot. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cites “well-placed sources” claiming there’s significant interest in Talbot. The 27-year-old goaltender starts a one-year, $1.45-million contract for 2015-16 and becomes eligible next July for unrestricted free agency.
David Staples of the Edmonton Journal cited a rumor out of Ottawa claiming the Oilers could part with the 16th overall selection in the upcoming draft for Talbot. The Oilers certainly need depth between the pipes so it’s no surprise they’re linked to the Rangers backup in the rumor mill. However, Staples considers parting with such a high pick an overpayment for Talbot, who has yet to establish himself as an NHL starter.
If the Rangers shop Talbot, they could face competition in the trade market from the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks. The Sens could move Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner, while the Canucks could deal Eddie Lack or Jacob Markstrom for second- or third-round picks.
Speaking of the Rangers, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman (cited by Today’s Slapshot) wondered if the Buffalo Sabres might take a run at acquiring right winger Rick Nash. Friedman admits, however, he’s not 100 percent certain the Sabres will make that move.
Sabres GM Tim Murray might be aggressive, but Nash simply isn’t a fit with his club. Though the 31-year-old’s full no-movement clause becomes a partial no-trade clause on July 1, Friedman notes Nash still has control over potential trade options. Going from a two-time Conference Finalist to a rebuilding club probably won’t be to Nash’s liking.
CANADIENS LIKELY TO SHED SALARY
On Monday, the Montreal Canadiens re-signed center Torrey Mitchell to a three-year contract extension worth an average annual cap hit of $1.2 million. Over the weekend, they also re-upped defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to a two-year deal with a $1- million average annual salary.
Those signings pushed the Canadiens cap payroll in 2015-16 to over $66.4 million. That increases the likelihood GM Marc Bergevin could shed salary via trade in the coming weeks.
Bergevin still has yet to re-sign RFA forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brian Flynn. With the cap projected to rise to $71 million, that won’t leave much room to re-sign those two while still leaving space for other additions as required.
Sportsnet’s Eric Engels notes the Habs have over $28 million invested in defensemen, suggesting one of them could be moved. Engels cites Tom Gilbert (one year left on his contract at a cap hit of $2.8 million) or Alexei Emelin (three years remaining, $4.1-million annual cap hit) as possible trade candidates. Forward options could include Tomas Plekanec (one year left, $5 million), David Desharnais (two years, $3.5 million annually) or Lars Eller (three years, $3.5 million per).
Plekanec and Emelin could fetch the best returns, but both are carrying no-trade clauses. They could be asked to waive them, but finding suitable trade destinations could be difficult. Eller might also interest GMs willing to gamble that a change of scenery might do him good.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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