Marian Gaborik at seven years, Ryan Callahan at $5.8 million: the price of keeping a contender

Rory Boylen
Marian Gaborik celebrates a goal for the LA Kings

In the last 69 games Marian Gaborik played before landing with the Los Angeles Kings, he scored 18 goals. He’s been back and forth between a 40-goal pace and a 20-goal pace since 2010 and, like most goal scorers, can be very streaky. But when he gets hot like he did during this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, he’s a real dangerous, difference-making striker.

Would you give a 32-year-old streaky scorer like this a seven-year deal? That’s what Dean Lombardi – the best GM in the NHL business – did Wednesday. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Where will Ryan Kesler be traded?

Ryan-Kesler-VAN

With the Vancouver Canucks having hired a new GM (Jim Benning) and coach (Willie Desjardins), the focus returns to center Ryan Kesler, who remains the target of recent trade speculation.

Earlier this month it was reported Kesler informed Benning he still prefers a trade. There’s been some recent confusion, however, over where the 29-year-old prefers to be dealt. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins are Kesler’s only preferences, prompting The Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek to note the difficulty that would create for the Canucks to move him.

The Blackhawks have limited cap space ($4.6 million) for 2014-15 and restricted free agents (Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin and Antti Raanta) to re-sign. They’ll have to either do a dollar-for-dollar swap with the Canucks or convince them to pick up part of Kesler’s salary to squeeze him under their cap. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp has been mentioned as a trade candidate, but Sharp has a modified no-trade clause, meaning he’ll have to agree to the deal. Read more

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

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

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

Rumor Roundup: Brodeur, Iginla, Vanek & Stastny free agency buzz

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The Boston Bruins’ limited cap space for 2014-15 continues to fuel speculation the club could ship out a player or two to free up dollars for other moves.

Though Bruins management claims their roster only needs tweaking, Joe Haggerty of csnne.com reports sources claim they will be very active in the trade market leading up to the start of this year’s unrestricted free agency period July 1.

Haggerty observes the Bruins only have about $9 million in cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Reilly Smith, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, plus re-sign or replace pending UFAs Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton and Chad Johnson. He suggests winger Brad Marchand ($4.5-million annual cap hit) and/or defenseman Johnny Boychuk ($3.36 million) are trade candidates.

Of the two, Haggerty believes the Bruins should retain Boychuk. Though the blueliner is entering the final year of his contract and is eligible for UFA status next July, Haggerty cites his durability, physical style and overall playoff record among the reasons for his retention. Read more

Trading Spezza will spell end of an era in Ottawa – but that’s the circle of NHL life

Jason Spezza (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The expected trading of Senators captain Jason Spezza in the coming weeks spells the end of an era in Ottawa. Seven years after the Sens won the Eastern Conference, Spezza and fellow key cornerstone Daniel Alfredsson (who left via free agency last summer) will be gone – and only two players (Chris Phillips and Chris Neil) from that Stanley Cup finalist roster will remain with the franchise.

But that’s about the maximum life cycle of a Cup frontrunner in the modern era. If you’re an NHL GM talented and fortunate to build an elite team, you get seven years – if you’re lucky – to win with a particular group of players before you have to almost completely reboot your system.

Go back 10 years to the then-champion Tampa Bay Lightning. They thought they were set for a long time with two 24-year-olds (Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier), but only four years later, the team’s struggles and cap imbalances forced them to trade Richards to Dallas and the slow dismantling began. Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis lasted longer than most in one market, but they too eventually moved on. It was unthinkable at the time to picture them in other uniforms, but it should’ve seemed inevitable.

History shows us how fleeting ultimate success in the NHL can be. Read more