30 Thoughts: Stanley Cup contenders line up for Ryan Kesler | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in Canada30 Thoughts: Stanley Cup contenders line up for Ryan Kesler

Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 | 11:44 AM

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Several NHL teams are said to be in the picture when it comes to trading for forward Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) Several NHL teams are said to be in the picture when it comes to trading for forward Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

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Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks looks to be the most coveted commodity, but the needs of several teams could make for some interesting moves at the NHL trade deadline.

We're skipping the pre-amble this week and getting right to it:


1. Someday, I'm going to force enough red wine down Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis' throat that he'll have no choice but to reveal which teams made serious offers for Ryan Kesler at this deadline. It's one of those situations where everyone asks because you'd be a bad GM not to. But the real interest is in who went beyond an initial call. The Pittsburgh Penguins' lust is barely concealed. But in conversations over the past few days, it became clear that a number of serious Stanley Cup contenders thought some of the teams that concerned them most were making a pitch. 

2. There is serious doubt the Canucks would keep Kesler in the Western Conference. But it's impossible to think there were no attempts. Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman denied any interest via email, writing "I have tried my best to convey that we will not be active but no one seems to want to listen. But I asked because some of his conference rivals clearly believed they were in. As one exec said, "How could he not ask about having Jonathan Toews and Kesler as his top two centres?"

3. Same thing with the Los Angeles Kings. I don't think it's possible now after the Sam Gagner trade fell apart due to salary-cap considerations. But if they were willing to add Gagner, it's inconceivable to think they were unwilling to add Kesler with a cap hit just $200,000 higher. If Kesler doesn't get traded now, I wonder if the Kings would try again after the season -- if they were unhappy with their playoff run. Again, the return would have to be great to justify this in B.C.

4. The preference is to deal him to the Eastern Conference and now, although the Canucks won't rush into anything they don't like. The Philadelphia Flyers, Penguins and New York Rangers have the proper pieces, with The Vancouver Province's Ben Kuzma reporting Kesler won't go to the Columbus Blue Jackets (I forgot about his negative relationship with R.J. Umberger). When it comes to trades like this, I always look for the team we haven't heard about. Is there someone we're missing?

5. "What the Canucks are asking for Kesler is reasonable enough that you can tell they will move him," one exec said. "What they wanted for [Alex] Edler is unreasonable enough that you can tell they don't want to move him." Unless, of course, the return is massive.

6. Bowman is quietly getting some important work done, with contract extensions for Brandon Bollig and Andrew Shaw. There's always a method to this and, from outside, it appears as if he's working around eventual extensions for Patrick Kane, Toews and, to a lesser degree, Brandon Saad. All three players can sign new deals this summer. Smart thinking.

7. We love the big moves. But as we head into the final 24 hours to the 3 p.m. ET Wednesday deadline, keep an eye on the small ones. Twenty teams are within $2 million of the cap. More than half of those are using long-term injury exemptions, which limits further flexibility if they're expecting those wounded mortals to return. So if a trade for a draft pick or a waiver move makes you scratch your head, wait to see if a second shoe drops.

8. Who could try this? Maybe the Anaheim Ducks. The way the cap works, you "bank" the space you save every day and Anaheim's worked very hard to maximize that. It has made more than 50 transactions back and forth between its NHL team and its AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. There's two reasons a team does this: a tight budget; and/or saving up for the deadline. Anaheim is a budget team. But the manoeuvring has left the Ducks with breathing room -- in a year where they lead the NHL in points.

9. Nashville Predators GM David Poile told The Tennessean' John Glennon that David Legwand is unlikely to be traded. "If we trade David for a draft pick or prospect that's not going to come in and play here [immediately], you could argue quite convincingly that that's not going to make us a better hockey club," Poile said. For what it's worth, there was one point earlier in the season I chased a rumour that Anaheim was interested in Legwand, only to have it roundly denied. It came up again this week. But if the Ducks are serious, they're going to have to up the offer.

10. Why it's so hard to believe Pat LaFontaine willingly resigned as Buffalo Sabres president? Because nothing that's happened in the past few days is normal. Lafontaine misses a speaking engagement and the audience is told he's ill. Head coach Ted Nolan stumbles through a media conference, stunned at what's happened. We've seen people go into The Cone of Silence (Claude Noel, Darcy Regier, Ron Wilson) and all of them were fired. And no one who's going to say, "I just wanted to go back to New York City" needs a confidentiality agreement.

11. As crazy as it looks, truth is it's probably best for the franchise. Think about what happened last week. There were reports they were going to re-sign Ryan Miller. Then, Sabres GM Tim Murray said that was never the plan. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to see what was happening. Whether you are on Team LaFontaine or Team Murray, you must agree on one important fact -- you cannot have two master chefs. There can only be one boss.

12. During the recent Olympics, word was Nolan, who coached Latvia in Sochi, had a three-year extension waiting for him and John Vogl of The Buffalo News reported last week there was supposed to be an announcement last Tuesday. If it doesn't work out, two names expected to get consideration are AHL coaches Luke Richardson (Binghamton) and Terry Murray (Adirondack).

13. As for trading Ryan Miller to St. Louis, Buffalo gets the Blues' 2014 first-round pick if Miller re-signs before the June draft or if they win two playoff rounds. Satirist extraordinaire Down Goes Brown wondered if the Blues can still trade that pick, assuming neither condition is met. Research indicates the answer is yes. Sort of. Let's assume -- and I'm totally making up this scenario -- St. Louis trades that 2014 first-rounder for Thomas Vanek of the New York Islanders. Before that move would be approved, there must be a written guarantee of what the Islanders would get should Buffalo's conditions occur. 

14. At least one team was told the New Jersey Devils are not trading Jaromir Jagr.

15. As the Martin Brodeur watch continues, the biggest question potential landing spots seem to have is, 'How much does he want to play?' Brodeur says he wants a little more action. Hard to quantify what that means.

16. Amid rumours of Jaroslav Halak being traded to Minnesota, I thought the Wild might ask about Tim Thomas. As of Monday night, there was zero indication he'd been asked to waive his no-trade clause. I also wonder if, in pursuing Halak, the Wild will ask about Drew Stafford. He's got local ties and they've discussed the possibility of getting him before.
17. The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are in a bit of a holding pattern waiting for teams to look into other situations before circling back. Edmonton seems confident it will move Ales Hemsky and Nick Schultz. But there's also the question of Ryan Smyth. It sounds like the Oilers are sensitive about making sure he goes somewhere where the fit really makes sense.

18. Edmonton signed Ben Scrivens two days after he appeared on Hockey Night After Hours with Scott Oake and Kelly Hrudey. I think the Oilers had interest in Michal Neuvirth of the Washington Capitals. No idea the impact the Scrivens signing has on that.

19. Denied by both team and agent: Cam Ward wants the Carolina Hurricanes to trade him, something I heard it quite a bit in Sochi.

20. Asked if the Ottawa Senators were a buyer or a seller, team owner Eugene Melnyk said: "We're definitely not sellers. We are definite buyers if the opportunity arises."

21. As speculation swirled in Ottawa about Jason Spezza's availability, here's a guess as to what might be going on. Spezza's heading towards the final season of his contract and Senators GM Bryan Murray's been around long enough to know that, with a player like him, you better have a plan. If you're not guaranteed to re-sign him, you better understand his value (Spezza has a no-trade).

22. I'm not so certain Buffalo's Chris Stewart will end up in Ottawa, a move that makes more sense than a rental because he has another year under contract. At the 2000 NHL draft, the Oilers were ready to move Roman Hamrlik and the Rangers were interested. Kevin Lowe, who had just replaced Glen Sather as Oilers GM when the latter went to Manhattan, made a deal with the Islanders instead. Later, Lowe talked about how he didn't want to make a trade with Sather so quickly. Would newly hired Sabres GM Tim Murray have any similar issue?

23. Now that the Rangers and Ryan Callahan are together on a six-year term and within $500,000 per season on salary, you have to think there's enough common ground to get things done. When Edmonton originally traded Ryan Smyth, the two sides could not bridge a $100,000 difference and both later regretted it.

24. That said, a couple of teams indicated they knew Dan Girardi's extension was getting done when his name suddenly disappeared from the Rangers' lips. Callahan's name was still out there a day ago, though things change quickly at this time of year.

25. In all of the debate about David Bolland's reported eight-year, $40-million request to remain with the Toronto Maple Leafs, remember a few things. First, if you're the player, you're only hurting your negotiating position by making a low first offer. If you're the Maple Leafs, you're probably better off waiting to see how Bolland recovers from a severed ankle tendon before committing anything. When this is all said and done, if Bolland wants to stay and the Maple Leafs want him, things will get done, just like it did with Tyler Bozak.

26. Los Angeles will be interesting to watch. Kings GM Dean Lombardi doesn't like rentals. Still, if he thinks he can extend Marian Gaborik or Matt Moulson, he'll be more inclined to pay. Moulson is Jonathan Quick's brother-in-law, while Gaborik has some L.A. connections. I don't know if any of that really matters at the end of the day. But it's part of the decision-making process.

27. Perhaps another way Lombardi might be willing to rent is if he can resolve his two biggest issues with one move. For example, he wants a left-shooting defenceman like Andrew MacDonald. Islanders GM Garth Snow is asking a lot for both he and Vanek. But if the Kings are willing to take the two of them, is the price reasonable in Lombardi's eyes?

28. Roberto Luongo, during a sit-down interview last Thursday: "I'm in a good spot now mentally. After going through what happened during the past couple of years ... I just want to play again and sometimes you really don't realize how much you miss it." How much does he think about his future? "I don't really think about it ... it's so unpredictable. Things change all the time. Sometimes you want certain things [and] they don't happen. Sometimes you're not expecting something to happen and it does ... I'm happy right now and I don't want to worry about what's going to happen in the future."

29. Luongo's is a great attitude. But it will be challenged by his hurt at not starting the Heritage Classic. I thought he did a great job of trying to loosen up Eddie Lack as they skated off the ice at the end of the second period. There's no evidence the Canucks have tried once again to see if there is any kind of market for Luongo's services. Now that so much of last year's emotion is gone, would it be any easier to put something together?

30. Hrudey and Hockey Night colleague Glenn Healy are normally excellent at noticing the smallest injury or discomfort with a goalie. However, they didn't notice anything with Carey Price, who was brilliant at the Olympics. It makes me wonder if that long flight home from Sochi after the gold-medal game played any role in all of this.

Follow Elliotte Friedman on Twitter @FriedgeHNIC

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