With the Stanley Cup playoffs finally over, the attention of NHL fans turns toward the draft.
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The draft weekend, slated for June 25-26, is usually when the league’s trade market — dormant since the March trade deadline — kicks back into action, and already the names of several veteran players has popped up in the trade rumor mill.
One player who could be on the move during that weekend is Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle. From June 25 until Aug. 1, his no-trade clause isn’t in effect, meaning the Leafs can trade him anywhere without his permission.
It’s been speculated for weeks that Leafs general manager Brian Burke will try to move him for a first-round pick and/or a good young roster player.
Various reports have linked Kaberle to the New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks.
Kaberle would be an invaluable addition to teams seeking an experienced puck-moving defenseman and his $4.25 million salary for 2010-11 also makes him attractive, but he’s also eligible for unrestricted free agency in July 2011.
Unless the Leafs allow interested teams to speak with Kaberle’s agent about a potential contract extension, it could adversely affect their efforts to move him.
Another player rumored to be available is Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza after Sens GM Bryan Murray claimed in an interview Spezza expressed unhappiness over being made the scapegoat by disgruntled Senators fans for the club’s early exit from the 2010 playoffs.
It’s been speculated Spezza asked Murray for a trade, although neither admitted that was the case. The Senators GM in subsequent interviews has sounded as though he wants to keep Spezza in the team’s future plans.
But that hasn’t stopped some pundits from suggesting perhaps Murray doesn’t want a repeat of last year’s fiasco with Dany Heatley, whose public request for a trade last spring dogged the Senators throughout the summer of 2009 until he was finally shipped to San Jose.
One rumor making the rounds suggested the Senators might shop Spezza to the Boston Bruins for their first-round pick (second overall). But that overlooks the Bruins depth at center in Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard and David Krejci, plus that club’s obvious need for offensive wingers.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie recently suggested the possibility that Spezza and Murray might be willing to entertain the notion of a trade, but might also be prepared to move forward together if one doesn’t materialize.
Another Senator whose rights could be dealt during the draft weekend — if not sooner — is defenseman Anton Volchenkov. He’s an unrestricted free agent whose salary demands (believed to be $5 million per season) are too rich for the cap-strapped Senators.
The Washington Capitals were rumored as a potential destination but the Washington Post recently reported Capitals general manager George McPhee dismissed that possibility.
Meanwhile, ongoing contract talks between the Anaheim Ducks and restricted-free-agent winger Bobby Ryan has led to suggestions he might be shopped before July 1 rather than management risk a rival club pitching an offer sheet too expensive to match.
Ryan was linked with Kaberle in some speculation last week out of Toronto but Ducks GM Bob Murray told the Orange County Register it was "ridiculous." Still, the longer Ryan goes without a new contract the more nervous Ducks supporters will be as the draft weekend nears.
Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning could also be busy during the draft weekend.
Both clubs are now under new management intent on shaking up their respective rosters. The Panthers hired former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon while former Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman now runs the Lightning.
Tallon reportedly might be willing to move forwards Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss or Rostislav Olesz as the Panthers attempt yet another rebuilding process, but the player most likely to be shopped could be goaltender Tomas Vokoun. The veteran netminder has one year remaining on his contract, apparently no intention of re-signing with the Panthers beyond next season, and might be willing — for the right offer — to waive his movement clause to facilitate a trade.
Meanwhile, Yzerman takes over a Lightning team in need of a quality starting goaltender and defensive depth, but so far no reports have appeared suggesting possible trade candidates. A report in the Ottawa Sun over the weekend claimed Yzerman had contacted the Montreal Canadiens over the status of goalie Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price.
Forget about Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier being dealt. He’s got a no-movement clause and reportedly no desire to leave Tampa Bay.
Changes with Stanley Cup finalists
Even this year’s Stanley Cup finalists might make some moves during the entry draft.
The Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks are pressed for cap space next season, which could result in moving two or three key roster players.
While expensive players like Brian Campbell, Marian Hossa and Cristobal Huet are considered possible canadidates, the ‘Hawks could find clubs more interested in affordable talent like Patrick Sharp ($3.9 million), Kris Versteeg ($3.083 million) and Dustin Byfuglien ($3 million).
And Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren has to decide if he’ll pay Michael Leighton as a starting goaltender or find a more experienced one via trade or free agency. If Holmgren opts to go the trade route, he has considerable depth at forward from which he could draw upon for trade bait.
Jeff Carter’s name popped up frequently this past season in the rumor mill so don’t be surprised if it does again in the days leading up to the draft.