Draft week has arrived for the NHL, which means offseason activity should begin in earnest. Whether teams are focused on gearing up for a Stanley Cup run next season or rebuilding to make that a possibility within a few years, there are moves that will be made.
The trade market seems particularly active this year, with several big names floating around the rumor mill. Whether they will actually get shipped elsewhere is obviously up in the air, but it should at the very least make for a very interesting summer.
Free agency will then come into the equation shortly after the draft, so it's a very important stretch for front offices around the league. With that in mind, let's check out some of the latest talk and examine what it could mean for the teams involved.
Even at age 34, Thornton remains one of the best distributors the game has to offer. He finished last season with 65 assists, good for second in the league behind Sidney Crosby. Those skills would be a welcome addition to virtually every contender in the NHL.
Pierre LeBrun of TSN reports that early indications suggest the veteran center would like to stay with the San Jose Sharks, but his stance could change over the summer. If it does, there will be plenty of interest, with one team standing out from the pack so far:
In the meantime, teams who are intrigued are calling San Jose. Amongst those teams are the Detroit Red Wings. Thornton is from St. Thomas, not too far from Detroit but, again, none of that talk means anything until Thornton decides to tell the Sharks he does not want to be a part of the rebuilding plan, and that has not happened at this point.
Detroit could certainly use some depth in the center of the ice behind Pavel Datsyuk. The Red Wings made the playoffs last season despite a negative goal differential. Adding Thornton would go a long way toward making sure the offense is more efficient next season. It may take some convincing, though.
Jason Spezza and Ryan Kesler
The St. Louis Blues made several moves, highlighted by the acquisition of Ryan Miller, to push for the Cup last season. They faded down the stretch, however, which forced them into a tough opening series against the Chicago Blackhawks, which they lost.
Now it's back to the drawing board for the Blues. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that general manager Doug Armstrong has set his sights on a No. 1 center to revitalize the offense:
With the two-day NHL draft beginning Friday in Philadelphia and free agency to start July 1, trade talks around the league are in full swing, and there is a possibility the Blues could go that route to land a top-end center.
The club has checked on the availability of Ottawa's Jason Spezza and Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, among others, according to sources.
Spezza is the more intriguing option. He's averaged a point per game throughout his career and would likely thrive alongside Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie. Kesler's production has dropped off in each of his past two full seasons, but perhaps a change of scenery could do wonders if the price is right.
First Overall Pick
Ever since his team won the draft lottery, Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has said he'd be willing to deal the top selection if the right package came along. Mike Halford of Pro Hockey Talk passed along comments Tallon made during an interview on Sportsnet Fan 590:
I definitely will [be shopping the pick], especially this year. We had a couple of nibbles the day after we won [the lottery]. There were a couple guys calling to bust my chops, asking 'what are you going to do?' And that's fine. It's a good thing.
There are five players who are seemingly a step above the rest in this class. Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports reports that the Vancouver Canucks, who are currently slated to pick sixth, are looking to move up to the top spot with an eye on one of those elite prospects:
One team that has definitely made an offer? Vancouver. I believe it included their first pick in this draft (which is sixth overall) and Hunter Shinkaruk, who was taken 24th in 2013. There was at least one other piece, probably off the main roster, but I can't pin it down. It's not Ryan Kesler, who won't go there.
Defenseman Aaron Ekblad is likely going to hear his name called first. He's the top player at his position, and the value of puck-moving blueliners is on the rise. If the Canucks were seeking a forward, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl and Michael Dal Colle round out a clear top five.