The Los Angeles Kings have barely had enough time to celebrate their Stanley Cup triumph and it's already time for start looking ahead to next season. The 2014 NHL draft marks the beginning of what's setting up to become a very interesting offseason.
Even before the Kings raised the Cup the rumor mill was heating up. Very few teams around the league seem settled with their current roster, which points toward plenty of player movement over the summer. That includes drafting prospects capable of making an instant impact, a limited list this year.
For now, it appears everybody is waiting for the first big move to get things started. It could very well come when the Florida Panthers are on the clock for the first pick. So let's check out the latest buzz from around the league heading into the draft.
Top Pick Available
Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has openly expressed his willingness to listen to offers for the first pick. Alain Poupart of NHL.com provided comments from the man in charge of retooling the Florida roster and he stated around one-third of the league has shown interest:
Although Tallon obviously wouldn't divulge which teams have called, the Vancouver Canucks are reportedly in the mix. Elliotte Friedman of the CBC reports they have definitely made an offer for the first selection, but the exact package isn't clear:
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.
There are five prospects (Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl and Michael Dal Colle) who are seemingly a step above the rest. It's unclear what order they will go, however, so if a team is particularly interested in one of them, going to the top is the only way to assure the pick.
In turn, the Panthers should continue to receive plenty of calls. If Tallon can create a bidding war among a few teams desperate for one of those top names, he can get a king's ransom out of the deal and put Florida in even better shape moving forward.
Maple Leafs Looking To Move Up
Toronto is picking in the top 10, but a quick return to the playoffs is possible if it's able to land a game-changing prospect. As mentioned, there are five players who fall into the category, leaving the Leafs just outside of that range at No. 8.
So it doesn't come as a major surprise to hear them mentioned among the teams looking to move up. Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun reports the Leafs are definitely looking into different options to acquire a prospect ready to shine sooner rather than later:
While there has been plenty of scuttlebutt of potential deals making the rounds on the worldwide web recently, this much we do know: Toronto certainly is open to the idea of trading up from the No. 8 pick it holds now.
The article goes on to state Ekblad would probably be the player of choice if they moved all the way up to No. 1. That said, any of the forwards would also be a welcome addition to help a group that was a little top-heavy last season.
Blackhawks Ready To Make Splash
The Blackhawks have been one of the best teams in hockey over the past handful of seasons, highlighted by a pair of Stanley Cups. Yet, the team fell short of that goal this season and could be looking to make a notable move to shake things up.
Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times states the need for a second-line center is driving the trade talk heading into the draft. He also notes Ryan Kesler, Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton are among the stars available who are capable of filling that void:
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.
Whether the Hawks can make a blockbuster trade happen while still keeping in mind the extensions needed for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane is a major question mark. But if they can pull it off, it would be tough to bet against them heading into next season.