The latest on Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, Dion Phaneuf, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Joe Thornton and Matt Niskanen.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators GM Bryan Murray isn’t keen to entertain offers from Eastern Conference teams for Jason Spezza. Garrioch claims the Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks are believed to have interest in the Senators’ captain. It’s believed the asking price could be a first-round pick, a top-six player who can help the Senators immediately, and a good prospect. Garrioch cites a league source claiming the Senators could be interested in Ducks’ forward Nick Bonino. Spezza’s believed to have given the Senators a list of 10 teams where he can’t be dealt, and could prefer playing somewhere where the spotlight isn’t as harsh.
Garrioch also reports league sources claiming contract talks between the Senators and Ales Hemsky have broken down after the Hemsky camp sought a new deal worth $5.5 million per season. A source claims Hemsky set that price so high because he’d prefer to play in an American market with less attention after spending his career playing in Canada.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray might prefer moving Spezza to a Western market but if an Eastern club made a better offer he’d have to seriously consider it. Spezza could be willing to join the Ducks and Blues as they’re in better position as potential Cup contenders than the Predators or Canucks. He’s eligible for UFA status next summer so a deal could hinge on an interested club being able to negotiate a new contract with him.
As for Hemsky, his injury history could hurt his efforts to land $5.5 million per season from any team, not just the Senators. Teams in need of offense, like the Predators, Panthers and Coyotes, could have interest in him.
TORONTO SUN: Mike Zeisberger reports the Maple Leafs are eyeing the first overall pick in this year’s draft. There’s a rumor making the rounds claiming the Leafs will ship Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri and their first-round pick (eighth overall) to the Florida Panthers for the first overall pick and veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski. The Leafs would then use the pick to select Barrie Colts’ defenseman Aaron Ekblad.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I find this deal far-fetched, but I’ll play along and break it down. I think the Panthers would jump on this, as it would improve their offense. Phaneuf, despite his defensive faults, is a good puck-moving blueliner, while Kadri has the skills to be a very good second-line center. The move, however, sucks for the Leafs. Yes, they get the first overall pick and shed salary, but Jovanovski is all but finished as an effective NHL defenseman. He’s also on a “35-plus” contract, meaning if he retires this summer, his $4.125 million cap hit still counts against the Leafs cap for next season.
While the Leafs would have a “promising young defense” with Ekblad joining Morgan Reilly, Jake Gardiner and Matt Finn, they’ll still lack a couple of proven top-two defensemen. It also puts incredible pressure upon these young defensemen. Trading away Kadri weakens them at center, especially if they fail to re-sign Dave Bolland, which could be a risky move as I’m not convinced he’s a reliable second-line center. Unless the Leafs are intent on blowing things up to rebuild, or intend additional moves to replace Phaneuf and Kadri this summer, this deal makes no sense for them.
SPORTSNET.CA: Chris Johnston reports the New York Rangers face a tough decision regarding the future of Brad Richards following the playoffs. There’s speculation the Rangers could use their remaining compliance buyout to dump the remainder of Richards’ contract, making him an unrestricted free agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The way I see it, the Rangers really don’t have much of a choice. They have nearly $54 million invested in only 13 players, leaving them only a projected $17 million to re-sign or replace Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Anton Stralman, Benoit Pouliot, Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore and others. Unless the intent is to dump Rick Nash’ contract, they must buy out Richards or risk his $6.66 million annual salary remaining a hindrance to their efforts to maintain a competitive roster.
TWINCITIES.COM: Tom Powers suggests the Minnesota Wild should consider bringing back Marian Gaborik, rather than pursue Thomas Vanek this summer. Powers admits the Kings could re-sign Gaborik, who might not be willing to return to the Wild, but given his playoff performance believes it’s something worth considering for the Wild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While anything’s possible, I think Gaborik wants to remain with the Kings and they could be willing to retain him for a reasonable three-year deal. Perhaps they buy out the remainder of Mike Richards’ contract (worth over $5 million per season) and use the saving to invest in Gaborik.
CSN BAY AREA: Ray Ratto notes Joe Thornton is being mentioned in Sharks trade rumors more than Patrick Marleau, believing that’s because the latter has effectively improved his checking and defensive play. He wonders if Thornton is willing to accept giving up the Sharks’ captaincy and a lesser role with the club. Ratto also points out moving Thornton, who has a new three-year deal with a full no-movement clause, won’t be easy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It comes down to Thornton. If he wants to remain a Shark, he’ll have to give up the captaincy and accept a lesser role as the club transitions toward a younger core. If not, he’ll have to be flexible as to where he could be dealt. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if Thornton is willing to do whatever is needed to remain in San Jose.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James believes Matt Niskanen would be a good addition to the Red Wings for the right price. She considers paying over $6 million per season would be a gamble, given he’s had one banner year out of the past six.