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All eyes on Kessel

Phil Kessel of the Bruins hits the post behind Mike Smith of the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Phil Kessel of the Bruins hits the post behind Mike Smith of the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

With Dany Heatley traded to San Jose and Mike Comrie returning to the Edmonton Oilers, the Phil Kessel trade rumors now take over the spotlight in the NHL rumor mill.  

The Boston Globe created a stir last week by reporting sources claimed the Kessel camp had broken off talks with the Bruins and would consider offer sheets from rival clubs.

Kessel and his agent denied the report, although the winger told Sportsnet he didn’t expect to play with the Bruins this season.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli claimed he has permission from ownership to match any offer for Kessel, but doing so would force Chiarelli to dump salary. The Toronto Star suggested players such as Michael Ryder, Andrew Ference or Chuck Kobasew might have to be moved to accommodate a raise for Kessel.

Leafs GM Brian Burke said last week he didn’t contemplate sending Kessel an offer sheet “at this time” leading many observers to believe that could change if he’s unable to work out a trade with Chiarelli.

Fuelling that opinion was Burke’s reacquisition earlier this month of his second round pick in 2010 from the Chicago Blackhawks, giving him the first, second and third round picks he’d require as compensation for the Bruins should he sign Kessel to an offer sheet.

It’s believed, however, Burke is more interested in making a trade for Kessel and could offer up a player in addition to any combination of those aforementioned draft picks. Burke currently has nine defensemen under NHL contract and could consider moving one of them  – except those named Komisarek, Beauchemin, Schenn or Kaberle – for the right deal.

The problem for the Bruins is their limited cap space. With less than $2 million remaining, they couldn’t afford to take back much salary in return unless they moved another player with Kessel or in a separate deal.

The Leafs were believed to be heading the pack in pursuit of Kessel, but they could have company as the Rangers and Predators also reportedly had interest.

Predators GM David Poile admitted to John Glennon of the Tennessean he’s interested in Kessel and Glennon believes Poile would try to land him via trade rather than offer sheet.

Given the almost constant speculation coming out of Boston and Toronto recently, the prospect of a Kessel trade grows increasingly likely, perhaps as early as this week.  

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• If Kessel proves unattainable, teams interested in an offensive boost might look to Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky.

The New York Post reported Dubinsky’s contract talks with Rangers GM Glen Sather appear headed to an impasse, as Sather plays hardball with the restricted free agent.

Dubinsky could stage a contract holdout or demand a trade, but he really doesn’t have much leverage either way.

The Rangers also have far more cap space to match offers for Dubinsky than the Bruins with Kessel, so it’ll definitely take a trade to get him.  

In other news:

Reports that former Vancouver Canuck center Mats Sundin might return to the club this season appear to be premature.

Sundin’s agent claims the player only just returned from his honeymoon and hasn’t contacted any NHL team yet about his plans for the upcoming season.

Canucks GM Mike Gillis has said he’d love to bring back Sundin, but it would have to be for a full season.

Forget about bringing him back for more than $5 million per season, though. Sundin would have to accept considerably less, perhaps half that amount, for a full season with Vancouver.

• The New York Post reported the New Jersey Devils could try winger Patrick Elias at center, but speculation persists they might go shopping for a pivot, perhaps Patrick Marleau or Mike Comrie.

Given Marleau’s no-trade clause and Comrie’s recent signing with Edmonton, the Devils would have to look elsewhere.

• And now a moment to remember the summer-long Dany Heatley trade rumors and the joy they brought to hockey fans everywhere during the off-season.

Who’ll ever forget his near-trade to the Edmonton Oilers and how, after that collapsed, the Oil all but begged him throughout July to please, pretty please, give them a chance before finally accepting the fact he just wasn’t that into them?

Or the rumors the Rangers were in hot pursuit, despite their lack of a true first line center and the fact they’d already acquired an expensive winger in Marian Gaborik?

And how about the seemingly never-ending rumors of Heatley headed to the Los Angeles Kings despite the firm denials of Kings management?

Or those wacky three-way deals involving Patrick Marleau being moved as part of a Heatley trade, despite the fact Sharks management hadn’t even bothered to ask Marleau if he’d waive his no-trade clause?

So long, summer of Heatley, you’ll be missed…

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.

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