Should the Maple Leafs make a pitch for the first overall pick? Will Thomas Vanek get another lucrative contract? Could changes be coming for the Sharks core? Should the Jets try some “creative shopping”? 

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox recommends the Maple Leafs make a pitch for the first overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. The Florida Panthers hold that pick, and GM Dale Tallon last week said he’s willing to shop it, as they already have enough young talent and are seeking experienced depth this summer. Cox speculates the asking price could include either Jake Gardiner or Nazem Kadri.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While this year’s draft lacks talent projected to become superstars, there’s enough quality prospects which could become NHL stars. It might be worth parting with a player like Gardiner but I wouldn’t move Kadri. Forget about the Panthers tossing in a youngster like Huberdeau, Barkov, Bjugstad or Gudbranson. They might, however, be willing to part with Dmitry Kulikov, who the Leafs reportedly had interest in last fall. Of course, for that deal the Leafs might have to give up something other than Gardiner.  Given the Panthers’ lack of firepower, they could have more interest in Kadri than Gardiner. Bear in mind, the Leafs wouldn’t be the only team interested in that first overall pick so whatever offer they could make might not be enough to land that pick.

Could the Sharks shop Joe Pavelski?

Could the Sharks shop Joe Pavelski?

CSNBAYAREA.COM: Kevin Kurz speculates changes could be coming to the San Jose Sharks core this summer following their stunning first-round collapse against the LA Kings. He doubts Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will be moved, as they’ve recently re-signed three-year deals with no-trade clauses. Kurz considers Logan Couture the future face of the franchise and believes he’s not going anywhere. He doubts 37-year-old defenseman Dan Boyle will be re-signed. He also suggests a goaltending change could be in order, perhaps by shopping starter Antti Niemi (who has a year remaining on his contract), penciling in Alex Stalock as their starter and adding an experienced backup. Possible trade chips could be Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns. Just coming off a 41-goal season, Pavelski’s stock is at a high. His five-year, $30 million contract (with a limited no-trade clause) kicks in this summer. Kurz suggests shopping Burns to an Eastern Conference club. He also speculates GM Doug Wilson could seek a return of a defenseman or a center to anchor the third line.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I would’ve considered Pavelski untouchable, but Kurz makes a good point that his value is probably at its peak for the 28-year-old. If they shop him during the entry draft weekend they could get a good return. Burns is talented and can play defense or wing but his performance can be erratic, which could affect his trade value. If the Sharks intend to shake up their core, moving Pavelski and/or Burns could be their best options.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston believes no matter what happens with Thomas Vanek in this year’s playoffs, he’s going to strike it rich again as a free agent this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Be it with Minnesota, Montreal or elsewhere, I concur with Johnston’s take. Vanek may be a streaky scorer but his skills, age (30) and lack of a lengthy injury history will make him among this summer’s top free agent targets. Even if he doesn’t net another $7 million per season deal, I can see him pulling in around $6.5 million per on a five-to-six year deal. For those of you who doubt this, never underestimate the ability of NHL GMs to succumb to auction fever during the opening days of free agency.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Gary Lawless questioned Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s decision that Ondrej Pavelec would return next season as the Jets starter, especially after the New York Islanders acquired Jaroslav Halak from the Washingto Capitals for almost nothing. He acknowledged the Jets would have to buy out Pavelec’s contract if they were to make similar move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cheveldayoff seems committed to Pavelec, but it’ll be interesting to see if he brings in another experienced goalie to share the netminding duties.