The Los Angeles Kings won the 2014 Stanley Cup, defeating the New York Rangers in five games, but the focus for many NHL fans has already shifted to the always entertaining free-agency and draft periods.
With the season officially over, the rumors are flying around big names like Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, San Jose’s Joe Thornton and currently unemployed head coach Dan Bylsma, who was recently fired by the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s an exciting time to be a hockey fan.
Here are the latest rumors from around the NHL as the 2014 draft approaches.
Calgary Flames Interested in Spezza?
The Ottawa Senators have a serious decision to make with their longtime center Spezza as he enters the final season of his contract. If the 31-year-old Spezza is not looking to re-sign with Ottawa long term or if that is not part of the franchise’s game plan, a trade is likely.
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, one of the teams making the most noise about acquiring Spezza is the Calgary Flames:
League sources say the Calgary Flames have made a pitch to the Senators for their top centre but what they're offering and the destination itself make the chances of a deal happening slim ... While Flames' GM Brad Treliving deserves credit for trying to make a splash and rebuild, sources say Spezza has no desire whatsoever to stay in Canada and has told the Senators as much.
Add in the fact that Spezza can submit a list of 10 teams he doesn’t want to play for as part of his no-trade clause, and this looks like a deal that has little chance of being completed. Unless both Ottawa and Calgary convince Spezza that this is the right move, it won’t happen.
On the other hand, now is still the best time for the Senators to get the most reward for a possible deal. Spezza was relatively healthy last season after struggling with injuries (played 75 games), and a team making the deal would have a full summer to get the center acclimated.
Toronto Kicking the Tires on Thornton?
There are few players in NHL history with the unique skill set of Thornton, the 6’4”, 225-pound San Jose Sharks captain who will be 35 on July 2, but there are now rumors swirling that the franchise may be looking to deal some of its high-priced veterans.
In a report from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Maple Leafs are named as one of the teams interested in a possible trade for the future Hall of Fame center:
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Leafs are among at least six NHL teams who have kicked tires concerning Thornton’s availability…Thornton is said to have a no-movement clause, but might be willing to waive it, especially if the Sharks were to strip him of his captaincy as some have suggested.
According to CapGeek.com, Thornton does indeed have a no-movement clause and is due a whopping $6.75 million over each of the next three seasons. If the San Jose thinks it’s time for a rebuild, trading away Thornton now would be a wise choice.
While the no-movement clause may hold up any potential deal, the fact that the 16-year veteran has still never won the Stanley Cup could be the deciding factor when it comes to a possible deal with a legitimate contender.
Bylsma an Option in Florida?
Bylsma, the former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach, took much of the blame for the lack of success in the postseason by the team over the last several years, but he still won a championship and is one of the hottest names on the open market.
According to Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel, the Florida Panthers are serious about signing Bylsma:
Since winning the Stanley Cup in his first season as head coach in 2008-09 (only coached part of the year), Bylsma led Pittsburgh to the playoffs for five straight seasons but never managed to bring the team back to the championship round.
With a career 252-117-32 record as a head coach, the experience he had at the helm of the Penguins would be great for a young team like Florida. With the knowledge about how to get the most out of young stars, there is no better option for the Panthers.
Maybe Bylsma is the man to bring the Florida franchise back to relevance.
*Stats via NHL.com.