Maple Leafs trade speculation spikes in the wake of their coaching change, plus the latest Martin Brodeur, Paul Martin, Milan Lucic and more.

Could the Leafs shake up their roster by trading core players like Phil Kessel?

Could the Leafs shake up their roster by trading core players like Phil Kessel?

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: Cathal Kelly believes the Toronto Maple Leafs should trade Phil Kessel, suggesting the Leafs only star sets the tone for the Leafs room and consider his “public numbskullery” a corrosive example to the other “incipient knuckleheads” in the dressing room. He also cites former Leafs coach Ron Wilson calling Kessel unreliable. Despite Kessel’s obvious talent, Kelly believes the winger should be traded for the long-term health of the Leafs. “Trade Kessel. Decide who his worst cronies are in the room, and trade them as well. The structure needs extensive repair, but it’s the culture that requires a tear down”, write Kelly.

Kelly’s colleague James Mirtle believes the real challenge facing Leafs president Brendan Shanahan is deciding between a “de-build” or a full teardown of the roster. He notes the Leafs can’t buy a first-line center or top defenseman via free agency (and none are available this summer) while trades are difficult given the Leafs questionable trade bait. He recommends dumping players like Stéphane Robidas, Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Roman Polak, even if it means taking on bad contracts which expire sooner, eating half the salary of David Clarkson’s contract, and exploring what they can get for Kessel and Dion Phaneuf.

NBC SPORTS: Jason Brough cites comments made by Leafs GM Dave Nonis in his press conference yesterday announcing Carlyle’s firing that the players are moveable and none of them had full no-trade clauses.

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: TSN’s Darren Dreger believes all the Leafs, including core players Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson, are now “potential trade targets”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everyone’s got suggestions but the reality is there’s no magic cure for the Leafs. If the idea is to blow up the roster it means at least another five years of missing the playoffs, and as Mirtle points out, there’s no guarantee at the end of it the Leafs will be a better team.

Kessel’s contract is expensive but despite the sniping at him from Wilson and others he would attract interest in the trade market, though the Leafs won’t get fair value in return. Same goes for Phaneuf. That’s not saying the Leafs shouldn’t gauge their trade value, but don’t expect a hefty return for either player, plus the Leafs could be forced to absorb part of Kessel’s and Phaneuf’s salaries to make the deal work, especially given the uncertainty over next season’s salary-cap ceiling.

Dumping Robidas, Lupul, Bozak and Polak are more realistic moves, as is offering to absorb half of Clarkson’s remaining contract if it’ll make him more attractive on the trade block. Before going off willy-nilly, however, Shanahan and Nonis must see how the club performs over the remainder of this season under their interim coaches. They must also decide upon who will become their new full-time head coach before engaging in any significant roster changes. 

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli dismissed a report claiming he was close to acquiring Arizona Coyotes center Antoine Vermette and poured cold water on recent speculation Milan Lucic was available…Word is the Minnesota Wild aren’t counting on Josh Harding making a return this season. GM Chuck Fletcher remains committed to Darcy Kuemper as his starter. Fletcher and Sabres GM Tim Murray recently denied a report claiming goalie Jhonas Enroth could be headed to the Wild.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chiarelli may not be close to landing Vermette but it’s believed the Coyotes center is one of the players the Bruins GM remains interested in…Not surprised the Bruins don’t want to move Milan Lucic…I think Harding’s playing career is over. Multiple sclerosis is taking its toll upon his performance.

NJ.COM: Rich Chere lists Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Tuomo Ruutu, Jacob Josefson and Marek Zidlicky as the five players the club should trade before the March deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of these players, Jagr, Zidlicky and Ruutu should attract the most interest if the Devils decide to move them. 

STLTODAY.COM: Jeremy P. Rutherford reports Blues GM Doug Armstrong says goalie Martin Brodeur will stick with the club for the time being. Brian Elliott recently returned to the lineup and Armstrong wants to give Jake Allen a break.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Josh Yohe reports Paul Martin’s teammates hope Penguins management can re-sign him. Martin is eligible for UFA status this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martin’s salary demands and the Penguins cap space will determine his future in Pittsburgh. His current salary is $5 million per season, and the Penguins have limited space next season.