There may not be any action on the ice at the moment, but the NHL isn't fading into the background. After passing out awards for the regular season earlier this week, the annual draft extravaganza kicks off on Friday.
The Florida Panthers struck gold by winning the draft lottery and will make the No. 1 pick for the first time since 1994. This also marks the fourth time in five years the team will be selecting in the top three.
Making the job of Panthers general manager Dale Tallon even more difficult is the lack of consensus regarding the top pick. There's talent to be found for sure, but no one has stood out to become that franchise-changing player you want at the top of a draft.
All of this instability makes it easy to see teams working the phones to make draft-day deals, trying to maximize their investment and secure their future.
We've got the hottest buzz in the final hours leading up to the big event.
Ottawa Senators Want to Deal Jason Spezza Before Draft
After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011, the Ottawa Senators are looking to make some wholesale changes that include dealing 31-year-old center Jason Spezza before Friday's festivities kick off.
According to Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca, the Senators would like to receive a first-round pick for Spezza:
The talks picked up over the last 24-48 hours, to the point now where there are four teams talking to the Ottawa Senators about Jason Spezza. Three teams in the Western Conference; we know Anaheim and St. Louis are amongst that group. One mystery team in the Eastern Conference has entered the fray, which makes things a little bit interesting...
The Senators would to try to get this thing done, in a perfect world, before or at the draft. They would like to get a first-round pick in Friday's draft as part of the compensation for Spezza.
McKenzie also noted that Spezza has a limited no-trade clause. The list of clubs he doesn't want to join includes teams picking high like Florida (No. 1), New York Islanders (No. 5) and Carolina (No. 7).
Spezza is coming off his worst plus/minus season (minus-26) and his second-lowest goal output in a year in which he's played at least 70 games (23). He has just one year left on his contract at a $7 million cap hit for next season, so any team looking to deal won't be making a huge financial commitment.
However, that doesn't bode well for a deal because teams aren't likely to trade a top pick unless they can secure a long-term commitment from the 31-year-old.
Florida Panthers Have Trade Limits
Even though the Panthers desperately need to overhaul one of the worst rosters in hockey and reignite the fire in a fanbase that has seen the postseason just once since 2000, there is a limit to what they will do in a draft-day trade.
The Miami Herald's George Richards reported that the Panthers don't want to drop below No. 8 overall:
#FlaPanthers Tallon says he doesn't want to drop any farther than eighth in the first round. Let the rumors begin.— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) June 23, 2014
Among the Canadian teams that meet Tallon’s requirements, the Oilers pick third, the Flames fourth, the Canucks sixth and the Leafs eighth. All are said to have some level of interest in the first pick.
If the suggestions on the world wide web are accurate that a package from the Leafs of Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner and the eighth overall pick would not be enough, it’s an indication that the asking price simply might be too high.
Which team needs to make a draft-day trade the most?
Don't worry about a deal not being consummated thus far, as the Panthers can stay on cruise control for the next few hours hoping to pressure a team into meeting their lofty demands for the No. 1 pick.
That the Panthers won't move below No. 8 suggests that they have their eye on a player who isn't good enough to go No. 1 but is going to be on the board in the next seven picks.
Chicago Blackhawks Plotting Big Move?
The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup two years ago and lost to eventual champion Los Angeles in the Western Conference Final this year, so there don't appear to be any major changes that must happen for the team to be a contender in 2014-15.
That doesn't mean the front office is resting on its laurels. According to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Blackhawks may be looking to make a notable move at the draft on Friday:
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.
The Blackhawks are in a precarious position this offseason, as Lazerus notes the team also hopes to sign Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to extensions that will kick in for the 2015-16 season.
They don't have much cap space to play with—just under $4.7 million right now, according to CapGeek.com—so any potential deal would require moving a player and a draft pick.
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