Phil Kessel (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
Will either of Phil Kessel or Jeff Skinner -- or even Patrick Sharp -- end up in Pittsburgh? And if not Pittsburgh, where, and when, will Sharp be dealt? And how close was Kevin Bieksa to becoming a San Jose Shark?
The 2015 NHL draft saw its share of trade activity involving established NHL players. Among the notables to change teams were Dougie Hamilton (Boston to Calgary), Milan Lucic (Boston to Los Angeles), Ryan O'Reilly (Colorado to Buffalo) and Carl Hagelin (Rangers to Anaheim). Even the rights of all-but-retired defensemen Flyers Chris Pronger was moved as part of a swap that also saw Nicklas Grossman shipped from Philadelphia to Arizona for Sam Gagner.
Despite this unusually high volume of players traded, several others who've been frequent fixtures in the rumor mill remain on the market.
On Friday, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported multiple source claiming the Pens were interested in Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dave Molinari reports Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner was on the Pens’ list of trade targets.
Of the two, Skinner stands a better chance of landing with the Penguins than Kessel. Despite an injury history, Skinner's younger (23) than the 28-year-old Leafs winger and carries a more affordable $5.75 million salary-cap hit compared to Kessel's $8 million annual salary. Skinner also has ties with Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. As Hurricanes GM, Rutherford selected Skinner in the 2010 draft.
Skinner and Kessel are still available and the Penguins still lack a new scoring winger. Rutherford maintains he's willing to wait for the right deal, meaning his search for scoring punch could carry on through the summer.
That search could take Rutherford into the free-agent market. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun speculates Rutherford could kick the tires on pending UFA winger Justin Williams.
HOW MUCH LONGER WILL SHARP STAY IN CHICAGO?
Heading into the remaining rounds of the draft Saturday, Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reported Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp was the focus of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals. Once the draft ended, however, the 32-year-old Sharp remained a Blackhawk.
The Blackhawks must shed salary before 2015-16, especially if they hope to have sufficient cap space to re-sign RFA forwards Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger. Chicago GM Stan Bowman told Lazerus he has no timetable to make a salary-dumping deal. It's believed management will remain patient, confident that the right deal will be found this summer.
In addition to Sharp, Lazerus reports wingers Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg were also available. So far, however, there's been no mention of any interest in this duo. Sharp remains the main focus.
BIEKSA ALMOST A SHARK?
The San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks reportedly nearly had a deal in place for Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa heading into the opening round of the draft Friday. The Vancouver Sun's Iain MacIntyre reported there was talk the Canucks sought two second-round picks for the 34-year-old Bieksa, but a team spokesman denied this.
Curtis Pashelka of the San Jose Mercury News also weighed in on the failed deal. Given Bieksa's willingness to waive his no-trade clause for the Sharks, Pashelka suggests the two clubs might revisit this down the road.
The Canucks need to shed salary and get younger on defense. Moving Bieksa and his $4.6 million cap hit will accomplish that goal. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports sources say the Canucks are talking to other teams.