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.

CBC’s Elliotte Friedman believes Kesler’s list is a short one and includes the Anaheim Ducks, who reportedly had interest leading up to the March trade deadline. Back then, Friedman claimed Kesler’s list also included the Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning. Earlier this month TSN’s Darren Dreger speculated the Philadelphia Flyers were also on the list. Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Suns reports the Ducks could part with the 10th overall pick as part of the return for Kesler.

If Kesler is willing to widen his list of preferred trade destinations, the St. Louis Blues are interested. St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Jeremy Rutherford reports they’ve inquired about Kesler’s availability, as well that of Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, “among others,” in their search for a top-end center. Rutherford also reports the Blues are willing to put their first-round pick (21st overall) into play for a quality forward.

While it’s anticipated the Canucks could move Kesler by the opening round of the draft, president of hockey operations Trevor Linden insists there’s no timetable.

The Canucks could also benefit from patience. Spezza could be dealt by this weekend and the Colorado Avalanche could re-sign Paul Stastny before he becomes eligible for UFA status on July 1. It also sounds like Joe Thornton has no intention of accepting a trade out of San Jose. The Canucks could get better offers by waiting to see how thing shake out in the trade and free agent markets over the next seven-to-ten days.

WILL THE PANTHERS DEAL THE NO. 1 PICK?
There’s increasing speculation over whether the Florida Panthers will actually trade the first overall pick. GM Dale Tallon is shopping the pick, hoping to land a return that can help his club right away. In the wake of hiring Gerard Gallant as coach, Tallon told the Sun-Sentinel’s Dave Hyde it might also be time to “package some of our youth in a deal.”

Tallon isn’t referring to promising youngsters Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad or Erik Gudbranson, but rather some of the Panthers’ prospects. “We have 12 kids over 6-foot-3 who are under 23 in our system,” he said, adding they have enough youth now that moving some of it won’t affect their future.

Hyde noted the Panthers need a sniper to play with Bjugstad and Barkov. “Maybe we’ll find someone to put alongside them,” said Tallon. He also acknowledged he’s had “eight or 10 calls” from clubs interested in the first overall pick, adding he doesn’t want to drop any lower than eighth overall.

That could provide four Canadian teams – Edmonton (third overall), Calgary (fourth), Vancouver (sixth) and Toronto (eighth) – with a shot at landing the pick. It’s rumored, however, Tallon’s asking price could be impossibly high. The Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger reports an Internet rumor making the rounds have a package offer from the Leafs of Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner and the eighth overall being insufficient to land that pick.

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.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.