The latest on Phil Kessel and Jordan Eberle, plus updates on the Canadiens, Flyers, Canucks and Capitals.

Kessel acknowledges trade possibility. 

TORONTO SUN/TORONTO STAR: As rumors grow claiming the Maple Leafs are entertaining trade offers for their biggest stars, Phil Kessel acknowledged the possibility he could be dealt. “I go where they want me,” said Kessel. “I love Toronto. If it’s not here, it’s not here.” A source claims it’s probably Kessel and team captain Dion Phaneuf won’t be dealt until the offseason.  Both have limited no-trade clauses. It’s expected pending UFAs like Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik and David Booth are most likely to be moved at the March 2 trade deadline.

SPORTSNET: Damien Cox also believed the Leafs are likely to move Kessel in the offseason rather than the trade deadline. He believes Kessel’s trade value is more than Evander Kane’s, who was dealt earlier this week in a blockbuster deal from Winnipeg to Buffalo, but his lengthy and expensive contract could narrow the number of suitors, meaning the Leafs might have to retain some salary.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve repeatedly expressed doubts that Kessel or Phaneuf will be dealt at the deadline. These reports support those doubts. There’s certainly interest in the pair, and it is possible to move expensive talent nowadays because of the ability to retain salary. However, if the Leafs are going for a full rebuild, the market for Kessel and Phaneuf should be better this summer, when teams know how much cap space they have to work with. 

Are the Canadiens shopping Lars Eller (left) and Alexi Emelin?

Are the Canadiens shopping Lars Eller (above) and Alexi Emelin?

 Canadiens shopping Emelin and Eller?

TSN.CA: Bob McKenzie reports Montreal Canadiens forward Lars Ellers and defenseman Alexei Emelin have been floating around the rumor mill for “weeks, if not months.” The Canadiens apparently are willing to swap those guys for players who also have term on their contracts, but Eller and Emelin have three years each remaining on their contracts (Eller at $3.5 million annually, Emelin at $4.1 million per season) which could dampen their trade value.

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun also notes the Canadiens are seeking a hockey deal, rather than acquiring a player rental player. He claims there’s “zero intel” to suggest the Canadiens are pursuing Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O’Reilly.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve heard Eller’s name floated more often than Emelin’s, but not surprised that the latter is out there as possible trade bait. I believe the Habs management and coaching staff are disappointed in the play of Eller and Emelin. While hoping to make a hockey trade by getting players with term on their contracts rather than rental players, I think Bergevin is looking at the possibility of a lower than projected salary cap and wants to shed salary as well as improve his club. He was able to move three contracts  last year which were thought untradeable (Rene Bourque, Daniel Briere, Travis Moen), so don’t rule out Eller or Emelin heading out the door at the trade deadline. Though the Habs are rumored to have interest in Arizona’s Antoine Vermette, Bergevin’s desire to add players with term on their contract could put them out of the bidding for Vermette, who’s a UFA this summer.

Latest on the Oilers, Flyers and Canucks.

NBC SPORTS: Mike Halford cites an interview Edmonton Oilers winger Jordan Eberle gave to NHL.com in which he stated he wanted to remain an Oiler. Eberle’s name has floated around the rumor mill in recent weeks. Halford also cited a tweet from THN.com’s Ryan Kennedy, who said Oilers GM Craig MacTavish said his club “will likely move players at deadline, but laughed that it wouldn’t be like Kane blockbuster.”

PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi reports Flyers GM Ron Hextall doesn’t intend to part with his young assets in order to land quick-fixes to improve his team’s chances of making the playoffs. They have lots of veteran defensemen they’d be willing to move for draft picks. One of them is Nick Schultz, a pending UFA who the Flyers hope to re-sign. Carchidi speculates they could trade Schultz at the deadline and try to sign him as a UFA this summer.

THE PROVINCE: Jason Botchford reports of recent trade rumors about Canucks backup Eddie Lack, but is against moving him. Botchford believes it would be a big mistake to trade Lack, who has the right personality to succeed in Vancouver.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers shouldn’t try to trade their good young players like Eberle, but rather build around them, which so far they’ve done very poorly…Sounds like Hextall doesn’t want to part with Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn or Wayne Simmonds, though they have far greater value than any of their veteran blueliners…I think Lack’s situation will be determined in training camp in September. If Jacob Markstrom outplays him, Lack hits the trade block. 

Capitals potential centers of interest.

CSNWASHINGTON.COM: Chuck Gormley lists Arizona’s Antoine Vermette, Toronto’s Mike Santorelli and  Los Angeles’ Mike Richards as possible options if the Capitals decide to pursue a second-line center.