Rumor Roundup: Ryan Kesler still wants out of Vancouver, so where will he end up?

Ryan Kesler (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Ryan Kesler (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Ryan Kesler’s days with the Vancouver Canucks could soon come to a close. He met with new Canucks GM Jim Benning last week and while neither side divulged details of their discussion, TSN.ca’s Darren Dreger claims Kesler still wants to be traded.

Kesler has six teams he’s currently willing to accept as trade destinations and Dreger believes the Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers are on that list. Dreger’s colleague Pierre LeBrun claims the Canucks won’t just want futures in return for Kesler, as they want a player (preferably a center) who can help them now.

Bob McKenzie suggests the addition of Kesler into this summer’s trade market could adversely affect the Ottawa Senators’ efforts to move center Jason Spezza. Kesler has two years remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5 million, whereas Spezza has only one year remaining at a cap hit of $7 million, though his actual salary is $4 million. The Senators’ asking price for Spezza (an NHL player, a first round pick and a top prospect) could also make Kesler a more attractive and affordable trade target.

The Ducks had interest in Kesler and Spezza leading up to this season’s trade deadline. They’re well-stocked with promising young forwards and prospects to draw upon for trade bait, plus they hold the Senators first round pick (10th overall) in this year’s NHL Draft. Those assets will be tempting for Benning, but the new Canucks GM would be leery of shipping Kesler to a division rival.

If Paul Holmgren were still the Flyers GM he’d probably get into the bidding for Kesler, but with Ron Hextall now holding the job, that’s not a certainty. Upon his hiring, Hextall stated his intent to build with young talent and through the draft.

While that doesn’t mean Hextall won’t make any moves, he currently has only $6.5 million in cap space. He must re-sign restricted free agents Brayden Schenn, Jason Akeson and Tye McGinn, plus re-sign or replace unrestricted free agents Kimmo Timonen, Ray Emery and Steve Downie. If Timonen retires, Hextall’s priority could be replacing the veteran blueliner. The Flyers could also use a scoring winger for Claude Giroux’s line.

WHY JOE THORNTON TO TORONTO IS A LONG SHOT
As speculation grows over Joe Thornton’s future with the San Jose Sharks, the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger reports the Maple Leafs are among six teams to explore Thornton’s availability. Zeisberger claims the Leafs “kicked the tires” but no offers were exchanged between the clubs.

If the Leafs are serious about acquiring Thornton they could have much to offer up. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos late last week claimed the only players Toronto wasn’t shopping were Phil Kessel, Jonathan Bernier, Tyler Bozak and Morgan Rielly. If the Sharks are interested, they could inquire about the availability of Dion Phaneuf, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, James Reimer or Cody Franson.

While the Leafs have the assets to tempt the Sharks, Thornton maintains control over his future because he signed a three-year contract extension with a full no-movement clause earlier this season. CBC’s Elliotte Friedman believes Thornton will only agree to be dealt to a Cup contender, which would rule out the Maple Leafs.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS OFF-SEASON OUTLOOK
The Chicago Blackhawks aren’t expected to make any major changes to their roster for 2014-15. GM Stan Bowman said his “highest priority” is re-signing superstar forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Both are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July 2015 and ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reported agent Pat Brisson, who represents the pair, has had preliminary discussions with Bowman. Brisson said they’re working toward “getting something done by July 1, if possible.”

If Bowman makes any roster moves this summer they’re likely to be minor. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa speculates the Blackhawks GM could try moving winger Kris Versteeg, who was a healthy scratch in Game 6 of the Western Conference final and has two years left on his contract with a $4.4 million cap hit.

Reacquired from the Florida Panthers earlier this season, Versteeg managed only 29 points in 63 regular season games and only three points in 15 playoff games. Still, Bowman believes the 28-year-old winger has a future with the Blackhawks, citing the fact Versteeg was still recovering from knee surgery this season.

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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