NHL Rumors: Latest Reports on Top Prospects and Teams Before 2014 NHL Draft

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2014

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 31:  Prospect Aaron Ekblad performs a test during the NHL Combine May 31, 2014 at the International Centre in Toronto,  Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Hockey fans have been waiting patiently for the 2014 NHL draft, and the patience is about to pay off in the form of a thrilling two-day event that is rumored to also feature several blockbuster trades.

With Ottawa shopping Jason Spezza, the Toronto Maple Leafs trying to move up to No. 1 overall and reports of Florida having its pick ready if a deal can’t be reached, Friday’s action in Philadelphia will be must-watch programming.

Here are all the latest rumors surrounding the 2014 NHL draft.


Ottawa Wants to Deal Jason Spezza Before the Draft?

The Ottawa Senators and captain Jason Spezza had a great run together, but it’s time for the franchise to trade away the 31-year-old center before he walks via free agency next offseason.

Spezza only has one season left on his current contract and would likely test the free-agency waters when it expires. The veteran player leaving without any return is not the smart move by the franchise, and fans should expect a trade sooner rather than later.

According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, the Senators are fielding calls and looking to get a deal done by the time the draft starts on Friday:

It's believed as many as five teams -- including St. Louis, Anaheim, Phoenix, Nashville and Florida -- have made calls on the Ottawa captain. The club is mulling over what route to take.

With Spezza requesting a trade, the Senators would like to have a deal in place by Friday, but the club would like to get a No. 1 pick to replace the one Ottawa gave up in the deal for Bobby Ryan with Anaheim last summer.

While trading the captain away will be a tough situation for all parties involved, Spezza’s performance this season was the perfect going-away gift for the organization. He racked up 23 goals and 43 assists in 75 games, proving that he was still worth the investment from another team.

As for Ottawa paying Spezza back, the organization will be looking to deal him to a legitimate contender due to the better potential return. If a team on the cusp of contending for a Stanley Cup considers Spezza an asset, the Senators and their captain may end up happier after the deal.


Toronto Interested in Trading for the No. 1 Overall Pick?

The Florida Panthers won the 2014 NHL draft lottery and will choose at No. 1 overall. While the team could use a top player for the future, the possible return on trading the pick could yield several stars down the line.

According to Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel, Florida is drawing serious interest for the top pick in Friday’s draft:

In a separate report from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun, one of the teams most interested in the No. 1 selection is the Toronto Maple Leafs:

‘Word is, they are exploring moving up — it’s more than due diligence,’ said a source familiar with the Leafs activities at the combine.

With Panthers general manager Dale Tallon willing to deal the No. 1 selection, one rumour making the rounds suggests the Leafs would deal Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri and the eighth overall pick to Florida for veteran Ed Jovanovski and the No. 1 overall selection.

The Maple Leafs have a strong core of players already in place, but after finishing the season 38-36-8, it’s time for the team to take the next step into the upper echelon. If Toronto believes the cornerstone of the future is in this draft, trading up to No. 1 would be the wise decision.

Whether it’s an offensive cog like Sam Reinhart or a defensive workhorse like Aaron Ekblad, the Maple Leafs must go all-in if the front office believes one of these prospects will blossom into a top star in the league.


Florida Wants Aaron Ekblad If Trades Don’t Work Out?

The talk about Florida possibly dealing the top pick in the draft has many fans on the edge of their seats, but the Panthers should be wise and use this selection on a player who could help change the culture of the team.

Since early June, Fialkov has been reporting that if Florida can’t find an adequate deal for the No. 1 pick, it would take the best prospect on the big board:

Ekblad is considered one of the top three players in this draft due to his skill on the ice, but he is much more than that. This is a prospect who captained his team during his three years with the Barrie Colts and is a born leader with serious maturity.

While other prospects would need time to get better with their junior teams or in the AHL, Ekblad is ready to start immediately and would instantly contribute in the offensive and defensive zones for the Panthers or any team lucky enough to select him.

Add in his ability killing penalties and captaining the power play, and Florida should select Ekblad with the No. 1 overall pick.


*Stats via NHL.com and CapGeek.com.