Should the Leafs trade Phil Kessel? Are big changes coming for the Capitals. Should the Oilers shop Ryan Whitney. Read on to find out.

Kessel figuring prominently in Leafs trade rumors.

Kessel figuring prominently in Leafs trade rumors.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: James Mirtle reports  Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis isn’t offering Phil Kessel around the league, but it’s  believed he is willing to listen to offers. The Kessel trade rumors will surely increase if the Leafs are out of the playoff race before the April 3rd trade deadline. Kessel’s contract status (he’s slated for unrestricted free agency in July 2014) could also be a factor.

TORONTO SUN: Mike Zeisberger makes the case against trading Kessel, pointing out he’s consistently been the Leafs leading scorer the past three seasons. He believes Nonis would have to be bowled over by a significant offer to move Kessel at this point. Zeisberger also believes if the Leafs were to shop Kessel, this summer or next season’s trade deadline would be better, as the return could be greater than what they’d get right now.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Zeisberger, there’s no point in moving Kessel right now. It’s not like he’s playing poorly, and of late he seems to be gelling with James van Riemsdyk, who was recently moved onto the first line. Unless Nonis gets an offer too good to refuse, he should retain Kessel for this season, attempt to re-sign him this summer, and if Kessel would prefer to move on, try to move him during the summer or by next season’s trade deadline.

ESPN.COM: Craig Custance offered up some suggestions on how the Washington Capitals can improve. One is to try to win now by acquiring a scoring winger, a top-four defenseman and an experienced goaltender, though those moves would mean packaging top prospects and first round picks.  The other would be to play the long game, stick with their current goaltending tandem of Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, shop veteran center Mike Ribeiro, add prospects Filip Forberg and Evgeni Kuznetsov once their contractual obligations are completed in Sweden and Russia respectively,  use the available cap space to add free agent talent this summer, and be in line for a good shot at the first overall pick in this year’s entry draft.

CSNWASHINGTON.COM: Chuck Gormley reports Capitals GM George McPhee blames his club’s poor start on the lack of a regular training camp leading into this season for his players to adjust to their new head coach. McPhee also said he’s not going to blow up his roster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Capitals haven’t turned the corner by the end of February, then it’s best to build for the future by following Custance’s advice to play the long game. Write this shortened season off as an aberration, promote your kids, perhaps land either the first or second overall pick in this year’s entry draft, and use your cap space to bid competitively for free agent talent. If Alexander Ovechkin’s best days are truly behind him, the Capitals must bolster their offensive depth.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jonathan Willis asks if the Oilers should trade struggling blueliner Ryan Whitney, concluding it would be best to be patient and hope he improves. If they aren’t in playoff contention by the trade deadline, Willis feels it would make sense to try to move Whitney then.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whitney is a UFA this summer, and has a “no trade clause” in his current contract, though he’d probably waive it for a chance to go to a playoff contender if the Oilers are out of playoff contention by the deadline.

CSNNE.COM: Joe Haggarty recently reported the Boston Bruins are planning to offer goalie Tuukka Rask a lucrative contract extension. He speculates it could be between five-six years and could be in the range of $5 million per season.

OTTAWA CITIZEN: Ken Warren reports Senators goalie Ben Bishop could be part of a package if GM Bryan Murray decides to add a first line center or a veteran defenseman. Murray has previously spoken with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For now, Murray isn’t in any hurry. As long as the Senators play well, he can afford to be patient.