Rumor Roundup: Spezza buzz reaching a boil

Spezza (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the NHL draft only a week away, the Jason Spezza rumor mill is heating up. TSN reports Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray said he’s received two serious offers for his captain. It’s believed his asking price for Spezza is a top-six forward, a highly rated prospect and perhaps a first-round pick.

Though Murray didn’t name the teams, it’s rumored the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues are be the front-runners. Mike Johnston of Sportsnet cited a rumor from St. Louis claiming the Blues were Spezza’s destination of choice.

Johnston’s colleague Mark Spector believes the Ducks could land Spezza, suggesting their depth in “sub-22-year-old talent” along with their two first round picks (one of them acquired from the Senators last summer in the Bobby Ryan trade) could tilt the scales in Anaheim’s favour. Read more

Fun with semantics: Did Jason Spezza request a trade?

Ken Campbell
Jason Spezza

One thing in l’Affaire Jason Spezza that has become clear is that Spezza is no Dany Heatley. What isn’t so clear is whether or not Spezza actually asked for a trade out of Ottawa. Senators GM Bryan Murray maintains that Spezza did, those close to the player say that isn’t exactly the case.

According to sources close to Spezza, the scenario went down a little differently than it’s being portrayed. In his exit interview with Murray, Spezza laid his cards on the table. He told Murray that if the Senators were intent on a quick rebuild and were in the acquisition mode in terms of bringing in top-end talent, he wanted to be a part of it. But if the plan was to tear down the roster and rebuild the team with young players and draft picks, it might be best for the organization to maximize his value now and that he would not stand in the way of a deal involving him, provided it was not to one of the 10 teams in his modified no-trade clause. Read more

Rumor Roundup: O’Reilly and Avalanche headed towards another contract clash?

o'reilly

For the second time in as many years, the Colorado Avalanche appear headed to another round of contentious contract negotiations with Ryan O’Reilly.

The Avalanche recently elected to take O’Reilly, 23, to salary arbitration rather than pony up $6.5 million to qualify his rights. The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater reports the two sides can continue to negotiate up until July 15, but if still unresolved a date will be set for an arbitration hearing.

Dater claims the Avalanche prefer to use his annual average salary of $5 million as a starting point for negotiations, while O’Reilly’s agent Pat Morris believes it should begin at his actual salary ($6.5 million) for this season. Should this go to arbitration, the new CBA stipulates O’Reilly cannot receive anything less than 85 percent of his actual salary, which would be $5.5 million for 2014-15. He can also chose a one- or two-year contract.

Morris indicated O’Reilly hopes to remain with the Avalanche, but as he’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agent status in two years, this could become a year-to-year situation until his UFA eligibility. This prompted Dater to speculate the Avalanche could shop O’Reilly, noting rival GMs can contact all free agents – restricted and unrestricted – starting June 25, plus there’s a five-day window (July 1 to 5) where O’Reilly can sign an offer sheet. He suggests O’Reilly’s trade value could fetch the stud defenseman the Avs need to become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Read more

Which teams will trade their first round pick? Here are five to watch

Florida Panthers

The NHL released the full seven-round 2014 draft order today, eight days out from the event in Philadelphia. Round 1 goes June 27 and Rounds 2-7 go June 28.

Today we’ll take a look at the first round. There are lots of rumors about which picks will be in play, either because teams are interested in moving up, or because there are so many big names on the trading block that first-rounders will be made available to try and acquire them. This is a weird year. The UFA class is rather weak, the trade market is rather full and everyone seems open to talking about trading their first round pick. Which are the most likely to get dealt at or before the draft? Here’s a look at our top five. Read more

Seven centers who could move this summer – and where they’ll end up

Joe Thornton

It’s an unusual year for centers. When you build a team these days, this is a position you really need to be strong in. The Kings are deep down the middle, just as the Hawks were when they won and the Bruins in 2011. It’s a key spot on the depth chart, so when you get a good center, you tend to want to hang on to him.

This summer, though, there are more than a few pivots who are potentially available. Whether it’s by trade or free agent signing, if you’re looking to fill a center spot on your roster, there are actually options this off-season. They’re not all equal, but they’re all available.

Here is a look at seven centers your team may be able to acquire this summer and the most likely destination for each.

Jason Spezza: He’s already requested a trade and since he’s one year away from unrestricted free agency, he’ll be gone somewhere this summer. Where is the most likely landing spot for the Senator? Even though I think Ryan Kesler is the better fit in Anaheim, I think the Ducks are the most likely destination for Spezza. They’re in the West, well away from Ottawa, and they have piles of young assets with which to barter. Exactly what the Sens need. The Ducks have a pile of cap space and it’s no secret they are going to chase after a second line center this off-season. A 1-2 punch of Ryan Getzlaf and Spezza would make up one of the better playmaking center combos in the league.

Joe Thornton: A lot could happen in San Jose this summer and Thornton has been at the forefront of those rumors. A superior playmaker and solid possession player, Thornton may be 35 at the start of next season, but he’s coming off a 76-point year. He’s also got a fresh new three-year contract kicking in that, inconveniently for the Sharks, has a no-movement clause. So even if you did want to trade Thornton, you’d have to do it on his terms – and he’s not likely going to want to go to a team that won’t win the Cup in the next three years. The Sharks committed to Thornton and Patrick Marleau when they re-signed them this season. If a big shake up is what needs to happen in San Jose, GM Doug Wilson should explore trade options for Brent Burns and even Joe Pavelski first. But Big Joe needs to stay for a ton of reasons, not least of which is that the market would be narrow. Most likely destination for Thornton? Right back in San Jose. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Do the Calgary Flames want Jason Spezza?

Jason Spezza (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)

The NHL’s buyout period has begun and runs to 5 p.m. EST June 30. This year is also the final one where teams can use compliance buyouts to shed contracts without the calculation counting against their salary cap.

The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin recently summarized the details of the buyout calculation and provided a listing of teams that have one or both compliance buyouts remaining. Only players under contract prior to Sept. 15, 2012 are eligible for such buyouts.

It’s expected Buffalo Sabres winger Ville Leino will receive such a buyout. The Buffalo News’ John Vogl reports Leino’s agent, Markus Lehto, has had a “few very short discussions” with Sabres GM Tim Murray regarding his client. Vogl notes Murray has said it’s a “very good possibility” the two sides will part ways.

Over the course of the playoffs there was growing speculation the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings could respectively buy out Brad Richards and Mike Richards. Of the pair, Brad is the most likely candidate. The New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis believes the center will “almost assuredly” be bought out to free up cap space to re-sign several notable free agents, including Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard and Anton Stralman.

Other compliance buyout candidates could include Columbus’ R.J. Umberger, Dallas’ Erik Cole, New Jersey’s Anton Volchenkov, San Jose’s Martin Havlat, Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone and Vancouver’s David Booth.

SPEZZA-TO-FLAMES RUMOR BURNS OUT QUICKLY
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports the Calgary Flames made a pitch for Spezza, offering up Jiri Hudler, Mikael Backlund, possibly defenseman Dennis Wideman and one of their second- or third-round picks. Garrioch considers that offer insufficient and cites sources claiming the Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets are on Spezza’s 10-team “no-trade” list. Read more

Top five sophomore slumps of 2013-14

Conacher

By Jared Clinton

1. Cory Conacher
C, Buffalo Sabres
Early last season, Conacher was a sneaky favorite for the Calder Trophy. The diminutive forward was turning in an eye-opening offensive campaign in Tampa Bay when, out of the blue, he was dealt to Ottawa in exchange for Ben Bishop. History will not be kind to that trade. The Senators waived Conacher after he failed to show even moments of the brilliance that put him in the conversation for rookie of the year. In 79 games this season, Conacher failed to match the 11 goals he tallied in his lockout-shortened rookie campaign. Read more

Bruce Boudreau sees a crucial similarity between his Ducks and recent Cup champs. What is it?

Matt Larkin
Bruce Boudreau

Apologies if the horse is long dead and mercilessly beaten, but THN sees good things ahead for the Anaheim Ducks.

It’s fair to assume any team with a fantastic crop of 21-and-younger talent dwells near the bottom of the NHL standings. Endure horrible season, get high draft pick, hoard high-end talent, rinse, repeat. That’s why teams like the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres rank so highly in our Future Watch edition. But what about spoiled Anaheim, a.k.a. the Lucky Ducks? Our scouting panel rates their farm system as the best in the business and they finished with the Western Conference’s top record this season.

The Ducks had their hearts broken in round 2 at home to the Kings in Game 7, but, sheesh, things are looking up for this squad. It advanced a round further than last year and its new guard of prospects will get to spread its wings even more going forward.

“One of the things we needed as a group was just more experience in those playoff games,” says coach Bruce Boudreau. “We were throwing a lot of – I don’t want to make any excuses, but there were a lot of young guys playing in their first Game 7.”

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