Rumor Roundup: How will the Toronto Maple Leafs change?

#34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs stands by the net during a break in action in a game against the Edmonton Oilers on October 29, 2013 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Toronto Maple Leafs hiring Brendan Shanahan as their new president isn’t the only off-season change expected for the club in the coming weeks. Amid rumors coach Randy Carlyle could be fired, speculation persists over potential off-season roster moves.

James Mirtle of The Globe & Mail believes goaltender James Reimer along with defensemen Cody Franson and Tim Gleason could become trade candidates. Reimer and Franson are restricted free agents while Gleason has two years (at an annual cap hit of $4 million) left on his contract. Mirtle also thinks forwards Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul could be dealt for the right price.

The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons also believes Reimer and Franson could be moved, but feels their trade value is lower than it was a year ago. Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star adds his voice to the growing speculation over Reimer’s trade status, and thinks defenseman Jake Gardiner could be dealt for a top forward.

Of the three, Reimer seems the most likely to go. He wants to be an NHL starter but won’t get the opportunity playing second fiddle to Jonathan Bernier. If the Winnipeg Jets trade or buy out Ondrej Pavelec they could pursue Reimer. The New York Islanders could also pursue him. The Calgary Flames appear to be another option, but president of hockey operations Brian Burke believes Karri Ramo deserves to return as their starter.

WILL HEMSKY AND SPEZZA RETURN TO THE SENATORS NEXT SEASON?
The respective futures of Ottawa Senators forwards Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky remains a hot topic. The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren notes Spezza has one year remaining on his contract ($7-million cap hit, $4 million in actual salary) and anticipates a tough negotiation if he wants to stay. Otherwise, if Spezza’s willing to waive his no-trade clause, GM Bryan Murray will explore moving him for a good player and a draft pick.

Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun claims the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues expressed interest in Spezza before the trade deadline. If the Senators shop the 30-year-old center, Garrioch believes the asking price will be a first round pick, a player who can immediately help their roster and a top prospect.

Hemsky, meanwhile, is an unrestricted free agent in July. Warren interpreted his desire to play alongside a good center as a signal of his intent to move on if Spezza is dealt. The Sun’s Don Brennan believes Hemsky plans to test the free agent market.

It’s shaping up to be another interesting summer for the Senators, who face the possibility of changing captains for the second straight year.

AND ARE KESLER’S DAYS IN VANCOUVER NUMBERED?
Ryan Kesler stated his hope of returning to the Vancouver Canucks next season during a season-ending press conference. Leading up to the trade deadline it was reported Kesler wanted out, though he and his agent denied it. Former GM Mike Gillis received offers for the 29-year-old center, but opted to retain him.

Despite Kesler’s desire to remain a Canuck, speculation persists he could be dealt once a new GM is hired. The Vancouver Province’s Jason Botchford cited ESPN insider Pierre LeBrun’s claim that there’s a feeling in the organization Kesler is their best trade asset. LeBrun believes Kesler would attract considerable interest at the NHL Draft in June.

Botchford’s colleague Ben Kuzma mused over the possibility of the Canucks using their remaining compliance buyout on struggling winger David Booth, who has one year at a cap hit of $4.25 million left on his contract.

Kesler has a limited no-trade clause in which he can present a list of six teams to where he’ll accept a trade. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks reportedly pursued him leading up to the trade deadline and could revisit that interest heading into the draft weekend. If he’s dealt, the Canucks will need a second-line center, either as part of the return for Kesler or via a separate deal.

They also have only $9 million in cap space next season. Moving Kesler and exercising a compliance buyout on Booth would free up over $9 million to invest in other additions. They could also try moving defenseman Alex Edler, who’s earning $5 million per season with a no-trade clause, but his preference is to remain a Canuck.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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