The 2014 NHL draft is approaching fast, and free agency is also looming, but many hockey fans can only focus on the steady stream of rumors that continue to circulate during the period between the end of the season and the start of the official offseason.
Rumors have already started buzzing around potential free agents like Montreal’s Thomas Vanek and possible trade targets like Ottawa’s Jason Spezza. The chatter will only continue to pick up as the draft approaches.
Here are the latest rumors as hockey fans prepare for a wild offseason.
Thomas Vanek Not Re-Signing with Montreal?
One of the biggest names scheduled to hit the unrestricted free-agency market is talented winger Thomas Vanek, but there are many fans who had hoped he would re-sign with the Montreal Canadiens.
According to Renaud Lavoie of the Journal de Montreal, the Canadiens will not be re-signing the 30-year-old midseason acquisition before he hits free agency:
As usual Marc Bergevin refuse to talk about contracts. But sources told me that Thomas Vanek, Douglas Murray and George Parros won't return.— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) June 11, 2014
After spending the first eight years of his career as a member of the Buffalo Sabres becoming one of the top offensive forwards in the league, Vanek was traded to the New York Islanders in a blockbuster deal.
Once New York figured out that Vanek had his heart set on hitting the open market, the Islanders traded him before the deadline to Montreal, where he helped the Habs on their run in the postseason. While he didn’t live up to lofty expectations this past season, little blame can fall on his shoulders after being dealt twice.
Where Vanek ends up via free agency will be a major storyline this offseason.
Jason Spezza Drawing Serious Interest?
At 31 years old, Ottawa Senators center and captain Jason Spezza is heading into the final year of his contract. If the team or the player have no intention of working out a long-term deal, the possibility that Spezza will be traded increases exponentially.
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, there have been teams interested in acquiring Spezza, but the possibility of a deal with the team most interested right now is a long shot:
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.
Ottawa is in a tough spot. While the franchise only owes Spezza $4 million this season, according to CapGeek, his average value against the cap is $7 million. Add in the modified no-trade clause in his current deal, and making this trade will be difficult.
Spezza has the ability to submit a list of 10 teams he would not like to be dealt to, but the franchise is free to move him to one of the 20 other organizations in the NHL. While it may not be Calgary, expect Spezza to be moved.
Dan Boyle a Possible Fit with Toronto?
The San Jose Sharks traded veteran defender Dan Boyle to the New York Islanders this offseason, but the impending free agent isn’t a lock to re-sign with his new team. If Boyle hits the open market, teams across the league will be lining up to make an offer.
According to Darren Dreger of TSN.ca, there is a mutual interest between Boyle and the Toronto Maple Leafs if he becomes a free agent:
The Toronto Maple Leafs are high on Dan Boyle's list. He's expected to alert Islanders GM Garth Snow at some point this week as to whether or not he intends to negotiate with the Islanders with the possibility of staying there after New York made the trade for his negotiating rights. I know that the Islanders have already made an offer but there is no negotiation. Boyle wants a two-year deal, and the money might be more than the Leafs are willing to pay but they definitely have interest.
At 37 years old, there isn’t much tread left on Boyle’s tires. With that said, he is still one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL and would be a welcome addition to the Leafs' defensive depth chart and power-play unit.
Boyle has scored double-digit goals in six seasons during his career, including the 12 he scored during the 2013-14 campaign. Add in his 24 assists and 18 power-play points, and the veteran would be the perfect special teams weapon for Toronto—or any other team.
Stats via NHL.com.