As exciting as the 2014 NHL draft was this past weekend, the real focus for hockey fans has shifted to free agency and the possible trades that could come to fruition as teams adjust to the new $69 million salary cap.
With teams forced to make moves in order to get under the cap, trade rumors are everywhere.
Free agency begins on July 1, but here are the trade rumors that already have the sport of hockey at a fever pitch.
Several Major Contenders Interested in Joe Thornton?
One of the names drawing the most attention this offseason is San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton. While San Jose may be looking to begin the rebuilding process, Thornton’s no-movement clause could be a major holdup.
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, the Sharks are drawing interest, but Thornton still has control of the situation:
It’s believed Detroit and Toronto are among a handful of teams that have shown interest in Thornton but he holds the cards. At this juncture, Thornton can pick and choose his destination if the Sharks really want to move him. There have been calls on Patrick Marleau as well but it doesn’t seem he’ll be sent packing.
At 34 years old (he turns 35 on July 2) and a 16-year veteran of the NHL, Thornton has earned the right to choose his trade destination. If San Jose is indeed heading into a rebuilding phase, it shouldn’t be hard for the franchise to convince Jumbo Joe a trade to a contender is the best-case scenario.
Thornton has yet to win a Stanley Cup.
After scoring 11 goals and adding 65 assists last season—not to mention his dominance on the power play—it is clear that the center and captain of the team still has fight left in him. Thornton’s waning days in the league would be better spent fighting for a championship elsewhere.
Blackhawks Considering a Patrick Sharp Trade?
The Chicago Blackhawks probably felt they should have won the Stanley Cup this past season but came up short in the Western Conference and now must build a roster that can compete under the new salary cap.
Chicago may be forced to move a high-priced player like scoring winger Patrick Sharp.
In the same report from Garrioch, the Blackhawks are reportedly fielding calls about trades involving Sharp despite recent claims from his agent:
While it was heavily denied by Sharp’s agent Rick Curran that his client was on the move, Sharp’s name has been popping up all over the place in trade talks. Several teams say he’s available, so it will be interesting to see if he’s still there when push comes to shove after this summer. The Hawks are already over the salary cap and will have to cut money somewhere.
It should and will be hard for Chicago to pull the trigger on a trade sending Sharp away. The veteran winger may be making $5.9 million per year over the next three seasons, but he racked up 34 goals, 44 assists for 78 points in 82 games last season.
If Chicago deals Sharp, the trade would be a blockbuster.
There is no doubt that the Blackhawks are on a salary-cap crunch, but the franchise should not give up one of its top scorers for nothing in return. As much as teams will try to acquire Sharp, Chicago should find another way to alleviate the fiscal pressure.
Predators Shopping Michael Del Zotto?
The Nashville Predators acquired 24-year-old defenseman Michael Del Zotto before last season’s trade deadline, and he didn’t perform up to the expectations of the franchise in his 25 games there.
Now Nashville is trying to trade what’s left of the impending unrestricted free agent’s contract to a team that wants the exclusive first shot to sign him to a long-term deal.
According to Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, the Predators are not wasting any time:
Predators are trying to trade Michael Del Zotto. #tvasports— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) June 28, 2014
There is a ton of upside with a young player like Del Zotto who has already been playing at the elite level for several years. With the right cast of characters, the defender could be a key piece to a new team’s defense scheme.
The problem was his lack of production. With only 16 points and the lowest time-on-ice average of his career, Del Zotto did not prove himself to be elite in a contract year. While some teams may avoid him, there are many other organizations that would buy low.