The NHL draft will dominate the puck-related headlines this week, but that doesn't mean the buzz surrounding any potential free agents or trades has subsided. Far from it, in fact—if it's rumors you want, it's rumors you'll find.
Below, you'll find highlighted three different players who may or may not be exiting their current team, including two from the defending champions.
Mike Richards and Marian Gaborik
The most challenging thing for any title-winning team is keeping the core of the team together. Role players feel they are worth more money eventually, while top stars can practically see the cash waterfall raining dollars upon them in free agency.
Such is the position the Los Angeles Kings find themselves in after winning this year's Stanley Cup. Add in the fact that they've won two titles in the past three years, and you can see how those budgetary difficulties become harder to solve.
Thus far, the future of two players in particular remains up in the air: Mike Richards and Marian Gaborik. Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun has more on each:
The Kings aren’t trading Richards or buying him out. That’s the plan. But they aren’t happy paying a third- or fourth-liner first-line money and they’ve told him that. Los Angeles wants to keep leading playoff goal scorer Gaborik—they’ve offered three years and $15 million, which would require a hometown discount of sorts. To keep Gaborik and Richards, it means sacrificing a veteran free agent defenceman like Willie Mitchell or Matt Greene.
The Kings indeed avoided buying out Richards, per Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times. In that report, general manager Dean Lombardi spoke about the decision:
He was very candid. The most important thing is he realized he wasn't anywhere near where he is capable of being. If he's telling you, 'Well, I was good.' Then you've got a big problem. If he's not able to critique himself, then we're wasting our time.
But he freely admitted that it was nowhere near where he was capable, and the root is not age or injury. It starts with the understanding that I've got to prepare like a 28- or 29-year-old, not a 22-year-old.
As long as he looked me in the eye and made that promise that he would make the commitment in the off-season.… Essentially, I have to trust him. Once that deadline goes, we're locked in.
Richards has never quite become the superstar he was pegged to be in his Philadelphia Flyers days, but he has played an important role in both Stanley Cup conquests and is a leader in the locker room. If he picks his play up, there is the potential there to prove worthy again of his current 12-year, $69 million contract.
Gaborik should certainly be a priority. After joining the Kings in a March trade, he scored five goals and tallied 11 assists down the stretch, while exploding in the playoffs with an NHL-leading 14 goals and an impressive eight assists.
Here were flashes of the player who lit up the league with the New York Rangers in the 2011-12 season, scoring 41 goals and adding 35 assists in 82 games. While Gaborik may not achieve that type of production over a full season again in his career—he is 32, after all—something obviously clicked with the Kings.
It would be wise to bring him back.
Kane is able. Evander Kane, that is. The left winger posted 41 points in 63 games this season for the Winnipeg Jets, flashing plenty of potential. Just 22 years of age, the power forward already has a 30-goal season under his belt (2011-12) and looks like a piece to build around for the Jets.
Well, unless they trade him. He is arguably their most attractive piece in any potential deal, after all. And according to Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press, the Jets would expect to receive a hefty bounty in exchange for Kane:
Chevy and #nhljets would want a young top 6 F or young top 4 D in return for Kane. Player must be coming of age or in prime and locked up— gary lawless (@garylawless) June 21, 2014
Will they pull the trigger though?
Probably not, unless a team overwhelms them with an offer. Kane's potential is huge, and the Jets aren't exactly loaded with talented scorers at the moment. For now, expect him to remain in Winnipeg.