The latest speculation on Phil Kessel, John-Michael Liles, and Tim Thomas.

No buyout for John-Michael Liles?

No buyout for John-Michael Liles?

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons noted the Maple Leafs must free up salary if they hope to re-sign defenseman Cody Franson and forward Nazem Kadri and stay under the salary cap. Simmons believes “the Leafs will go to training camp over the cap and figure out what to do with John-Michael Liles or someone else after that”…”Why Tim Thomas seems a fit with the Colorado Avalanche: He can play and may not have to leave his compound on off days” …

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have until the end of August 4 to buy out a player (like Liles); otherwise, they’ll have to look at trades or demotions to free up cap space to re-sign Franson and Kadri. And if they trade Franson, they could regret it.

Good luck trying to move Liles, who has three-years at $3.875 million per (and a partial NTC) remaining on his contract.  The safe move would be demoting one or two players on contracts of $1 million or less. Then again, buying out Liles seemed a safe move, and that hasn’t happened yet.

As for “Thomas to Colorado”, Simmons is joking. The Avs already have Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere as their tandem.

BOSTON GLOBE: Fluto Shinzawa speculates the San Jose Sharks have spoken with greybeards Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle about contract extensions, but it’s possible not all three are re-signed. The Sharks re-signed Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture this summer, and must allocate future dollars for 2013 Vezina Finalist Antti Niemi, who has two years at $3.8 million per season left on his contract…Blake Wheeler’s new contract (six-years, $33.6 million) underscores the fact Toronto Maple Leafs winger Phil Kessel will become very, very rich. Kessel is eligible for UFA status next summer, and Shinzawa speculates he could get $8 million per season from the Leafs or on the open market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of that trio of ageing Sharks, my bet is Boyle is the most likely to go. They’ll try to re-sign Thornton and Marleau to short-term deals for a bit less than they’re earning now.

I chuckle whenever I hear or read from Kessel’s critics dismissing the possibility he’ll earn over $7 million per season on his next contract. He’ll easily get that much; if not from the Leafs, then certainly from another club next summer.