The 2014 NHL draft kicks off Friday, and free agency begins July 1, but the excitement surrounding this year’s offseason and the trade rumors circulating is already through the roof as anticipation builds.
With marquee teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks, the Minnesota Wild and the Winnipeg Jets all tied to rumored trades, the potential for a blockbuster deal has hockey fans genuinely excited about the possibilities.
Here are the latest rumors heading into a crucial portion of the offseason.
Chicago Blackhawks Looking to Add Depth at Center?
The Chicago Blackhawks have an incredible wealth of talent across the depth chart, but there is one glaring weakness: the center position. After Jonathan Toews on the top line, the team finished the season with Michal Handzus, Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw as the other centers.
According to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, the postseason exposed a flaw the franchise could address via a blockbuster trade this offseason:
The playoffs exposed a few of the Hawks’ flaws, most notably the longstanding void at second-line center, which sources say have Stan Bowman at least pondering a major move at the draft this weekend. With star centers Ryan Kesler (Vancouver), Jason Spezza (Ottawa) and Joe Thornton (San Jose) all on the trading block, and Colorado’s Paul Stastny possibly hitting the free-agent market, Bowman likely would have to give up a major piece of the Hawks’ core—Patrick Sharp’s name has been bandied about—to make such a move.
While it is hard to imagine Chicago giving up a talented player such as Sharp in a blockbuster trade, the Blackhawks have legitimate depth on the wings with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa and would be much better off with two elite lines.
The possibility of Chicago adding a star player, whether it’s Thornton or Spezza, should have Blackhawks fans jumping for joy. Instead of the franchise accepting the loss in the playoffs, the commitment to excellence is exciting.
Minnesota Wild Shopping Multiple Players?
The Minnesota Wild have an abundance of talented goalies and a lack of consistent forwards, but injuries and health issues have forced the team to consider big-time trades this offseason.
According to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota general manager Chuck Fletcher is looking to make at least one notable offseason trade and maybe more: "Fletcher has been shopping center Kyle Brodziak, sources say, and may be willing to retain salary and cap space to trade goalie Niklas Backstrom, who is recovering well from season-ending abdominal and hip surgeries."
With talented players such as Matt Moulson and Dany Heatley likely walking via free agency, Minnesota has the chance to make a serious splash via a trade and has the cap space to make a blockbuster signing via free agency.
The Wild have talented netminder Niklas Backstrom on the roster, and the emergence of Darcy Kuemper during the postseason, the continued presence of Josh Harding as he contends with multiple sclerosis and Ilya Bryzgalov still floating around have made them sellers at the position.
Many teams are desperate for help in net, and the Wild could be looking at a healthy return if they decide to make a trade.
Winnipeg Jets Drawing Serious Interest for Evander Kane?
The fans in Winnipeg were excited to have their franchise back, but the slow rebuilding process continues. One of the players drawing the most interest on the trade market is young forward Evander Kane.
In a report from Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press, the team has been linked to at least nine teams in a possible trade over the last month:
No player on the Jets' roster has had his name linked to more trade rumours than Kane. In the last month alone he's been rumoured to be headed to Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Chicago, Los Angeles, Ottawa, New York Rangers, Edmonton and Buffalo. And, undoubtedly, he's been whispered to be off to more destinations as well.
At just 22 years old, Kane is already entering his sixth season in the NHL. As part of a franchise that has lacked leadership and consistency, Kane has learned the sport on the fly through failures but has gotten better each year.
Winnipeg would be unwise to trade him away now.
After scoring 19 goals and adding 22 assists last season, the Jets must be aggressors on the free-agency market. While it will likely take overpaying a big-name free agent to buck the trend, there is a strong core of players that would do well with some veteran leadership.