Some call draft weekend the most exciting time in the NHL for all 30 teams. Not only is it the time to think about your franchise’s long-term success, it’s pretty much the last televised NHL event until the next season (with some free-agent news sprinkled in throughout the summer).
The draft doesn’t only bring speculation on which team selects which player, though. In fact, more speculation surrounds current players switching teams before the July 1 free-agency period begins. It’s usually not the miniscule names of the league, either. It’s the guys that even your grandmother could pick out of a lineup.
Here is your weekend-before-draft-day roundup of all of those rumors, to offer some opinion for you, and your grandmother, to consider.
Jason Spezza to… anywhere
The long-time Senator wants out. Whether its failing to lead his team to the playoffs for only the third time in his 11-season career or he’s just tired of the multiple trade rumors that have always been linked to his name (or a mixture of both), the two-time 90-point scorer is ready to move on from the nation’s capital.
Spezza, who has a no-movement clause in his current contract, submitted a list of 10 teams that he would not accept a trade to — this included the other six Canadian markets, as well as the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and New York Islanders. Two teams — believed to be the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues — have made “serious trade proposals” to acquire Spezza’s services.
Depending on what would be going to Ottawa, the Ducks would add another powerful piece to their dynamic offense. Ducks fans, feel free to drool over this lineup for the 2014-15 season:
Getzlaf and Spezza to center the top two lines? That’s almost unfair. The Ducks are ranked No. 2 in terms of prospects by HockeysFuture for a reason: they have enough talented youngsters to swing this deal without depleting some of the current lineup. That’s why the Ducks hold an advantage over the Blues (ranked 30th by HockeysFuture in overall prospect value), and stand a better chance to acquire the crafty Spezza.
Joe Thornton to the New York Rangers
The song has been featured in Duckman, That ‘70s Show and Rob and Big. Now expect to hear it at Madison Square Garden:
Sometimes, you just want your best friend around. It seems that this is the mentality for San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton, who reportedly has stated that if he leaves San Jose, he only wants to go to New York. It should also be pointed out that Jumbo Joe, who also has a no-movement clause in his contract, has since stated that he plans to remain in San Jose for the time being.
Is the writing not on the wall for players like Thornton and Patrick Marleau, though? After general manager announced he was buying out Martin Havlat and letting Dan Boyle go in free agency (and has since traded his rights to the Islanders), he reiterated his stance by discussing that the reins have been handed to the young players of the team and that the Sharks are entering a “rebuild” phase.
Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy offered his advice to the Sharks in a post recently: strip Thornton of the captaincy and hand it over to a young player. It’s not like the Sharks haven’t done something similar to this before, either. Rob Blake replaced Marleau as captain in 2009-10 while Marleau remained on the roster. It could happen again.
People react differently to the criticism that comes with this. The 2005-06 Hart Trophy winner could view this as the straw that broke the camel’s back. This could be what pushes him to pull a Martin St. Louis and demand a trade to the Rangers.
Why New York remains to be the question.
It’s easy to look at a roster and say who needs a goaltender. Positional problems aren’t seen as easy to the naked eye. After the Brad Richards buy-out, the Rangers have a hole in the top-line center spot. Cue up the song, Rick Nash, your buddy could be coming to town.
It’s an ideal situation for Thornton. He remains on a roster that has Stanley Cup potential. He gets to go to a team where he is still the clear-cut, No. 1 center. He gets to play with his long-time friend Rick Nash and he even has a chance to rejoin elite status in the league as moving from the defensive stylings of the West to the high-flying East will produce more points for his rap sheet.
Moving from the West to the East as an aging player is similar to the older baseball player going from the NL to the AL as a designated hitter; playing just half the game is less strenuous on your body, allowing you to produce for a longer period of time. Without the rigours of Western-style defense, Thornton could find himself among leading point scorers yet again.
Ryan Kesler to the dark side
Can you blame him?
He’s watched fellow American Olympian Patrick Kane hoist the Cup twice in the past five seasons while Kesler’s team has been on a steady decline since losing in the Stanley Cup Final to Boston in 2011. If that doesn’t motivate you to rule the galaxy from the other sweater, I don’t know what would.
Since losing to the Los Angeles Kings in seven games in the Western Conference finals, the Blackhawks have been vocal about acquiring a proven No. 2 center behind Jonathan Toews. Kesler, who would be a No. 1 center on many NHL teams, would fill the role nicely to provide the Blackhawks with possibly the NHL’s best top-six forward unit.
The problem would be the desired return for the Canucks. While the team is heading into a rebuild, they did just sign the Sedin twins to matching four-year, $28 million extensions. Although this was signed under recently fired GM Mike Gillis, the new management group would want this rebuild to equate to a quick one, so that the Sedins can be vital pieces in another playoff run in a few years.
This equates to the Canucks wanting prospects on the cusp of being NHL talent or current, proven NHL players. Patrick Sharp is a rumored name to be moved, but Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman will likely do what he can to keep the current roster intact for another run next year.
What’s scarier than a lineup that features Toews, Kane, Sharp, Marian Hossa and Kesler? How about a center group that contains Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kesler? Yikes, look out Eastern Conference.
The Penguins seem to be a club that has joined the Maple Leafs and Rangers as NHL franchises that are involved in every trade rumor. This one could be a possibility, though.
Unlike Spezza, Kesler seems to have narrowed his choices to the two teams he feels are contenders for the next few seasons. Unlike what may be going through Thornton’s mind, it doesn’t seem that he cares about being the No. 1 guy, either. He’s in it to win it, and so are the Penguins.
Already overhauling the front office and behind the bench, the Penguins may be looking for a big move to sure up a playoff-ready team. Kesler would provide offense when the Crosbys, Malkins and James Neals aren’t going full throttle. Why not make this move if you are Pittsburgh?
I won’t begin to speculate as to who could be moved to Vancouver, but the Penguins have a solid crop of youngsters (Beau Bennett, Jayson Megna and Brandon Sutter) mixed with a potent core of veterans beyond their top-two centers (Neal, Chris Kunitz and Lee Stempniak) to pull off this move. Newly appointed GM Jim Rutherford may come in guns blazing with a new center to terrify opposing teams.