The latest on the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes. 

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Who are the Leafs likely offseason trade candidates?

TORONTO STAR: In his analysis of the Maple Leafs final game of this season, Kevin McGran speculates Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, leading scorerPhil Kessel, first-line center Tyler Bozak, oft-injured winger Joffrey Lupul and leading goal scorer James van Riemsdyk are likely on their way out this summer. They won’t be easy to move, however, as all carry expensive contracts. McGran also expects interim coach Peter Horachek will be the first to walk the plank and suspects Dave Nonis’ future as Leafs GM depends upon which executives become available before the NHL draft in June. Bruce Arthur also expects Kessel, Phaneuf, Bozak, Lupul and perhaps van Riemsdyk could be dealt this summer, and feels the Leafs should retain defensemen Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Leafs can trade all those expensive core players and get decent returns for them, Nonis (or his replacement) will deserve kudos for doing so. As I’ve frequently said, it’s not as though those players (Lupul excepted, because of his injury history) lack trade value or that there won’t be interest in them. The problem is those lengthy expensive contracts and the fact the Leafs are dealing from a position of weakness.

Phaneuf has been questioned about his abilities and leadership, while Kessel, Bozak and van Riemsdyk have been criticized for their inconsistency and lack of heart.There aren’t a lot of teams which missed the playoffs this year that will be falling all over themselves to pay the Leafs asking price for these guys. The fact the salary cap is expected to rise to at best $71 million (if that) limits the amount of cap space interested teams could have to work with. The Leafs could be forced to pick up part of the salaries of some of them to facilitate a trade, or take back a toxic contract in return.

Hey, if the Leafs can get solid returns for these guys, great! But I caution Leafs fans to keep your expectations realistic. And don’t be surprised if some of those guys return with the Leafs next season. 

Big changes in store for the Bruins?

Have Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic played their final games with the Boston Bruins?

Have Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic played their final games with the Boston Bruins?

ESPN.COM: In the wake of the Boston Bruins missing the 2015 playoffs, Joe McDonald expects some serious decision could be made, starting with the roster. He expects trades will be made and believes many of the club’s pending UFAs (Carl Soderberg, Adam McQuaid, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Matt Bartkowski) won’t be re-signed. He speculates core players like winger Milan Lucic could be on the trade block. Lucic has a year left on his contract and is eligible for UFA status next summer, but he insists he wants to return with the Bruins.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Fluto Shinzawa also speculates on possible offseason decisions by the Bruins, cautioning ownership not to overreact over one bad season. Shinzawa notes restricted free agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton must be re-signed and the conversation could start at $4 million per season. He also expects RFA forwards Ryan Spooner and Brett Connolly will be re-signed. Like McDonald, Shinzawa notes Milan Lucic could be dealt, while wingers Loui Eriksson or Reilly Smith could also become trade candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said before, it would be a big mistake to fire GM Peter Chiarelli because of one bad season after all the work he did to make the Bruins a Stanley Cup champion and a contender for several years. Yes, he signed some players to expensive contracts, but that’s the price to be paid to maintain a perennial Cup contender, even in a salary-cap world.  Interestingly, most of the analysis I’ve read in the Boston media today also suggests Chiarelli should be retained.

It remains to be seen what happens with head coach Claude Julien, especially as he re-signed a contract extension this year. While a change behind the bench could be needed, Julien could return if Chiarelli isn’t fired.

It’s possible Lucic, given the expense of re-signing him and his inconsistent performance, could get shopped this summer. Eriksson could also be dealt but I think they’ll retain Smith after recently re-signing him to a short-term extension. Wouldn’t be surprised if they also try moving Dennis Seidenberg this summer, though his decline this season combined with his salary and no-trade clause could make him difficult to move. 

What’s in store for the Hurricanes?

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Chip Alexander reports Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis has some “meaty decisions” to make this summer. There could be contract extension talks with captain Eric Staal, who will be eligible for UFA status next summer. “And what to do about forward Alexander Semin, who was unproductive this season and has three years left on his contract at $7 million a year?” Alexander also notes Francis wants to add a defense partner for defenseman Justin Faulk. He must also make other blueline changes via trade or free agency.

Alexander reports Staal is keen to remain part of the Hurricanes’ future plans. He’s had no preliminary contract talks with Francis but isn’t concerned about it. Staal will earn $9.5 million next season and the Hurricanes offer could be less than his current cap hit. It’s also possible Francis could decide to trade Staal, who has a no-trade clause but said he wouldn’t stand in the way of a trade depending on the destination.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be interesting to see what Francis does this summer after he stood pat last year. He has no choice but to commence a significant rebuild. It was clear by his moves leading up to the trade deadline that’s what he has in mind. Staal might be willing to accept a pay cut to remain with the Hurricanes, but by how much could be a sticking point, as could the length of a new contract. As for Semin, Francis claimed he won’t be bought out, but that could be the only way to get rid of him unless he “retires” and heads to the KHL. 

Update on the Oilers.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Edmonton Oilers won’t be shopping their young core players this summer. Friedman claims Oilers GM Craig MacTavish told Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle not to pay attention to trade rumors this summer because they won’t be dealt. Include Nail Yakupov in that list as well.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson continued his speculation over possible goalie targets for the Oilers this summer, suggesting they could dangle the first-round pick they received from the Pittsburgh Penguins as trade bait. Possible targets include LA Kings backup Martin Jones, NY Rangers backup Cam Talbot, Ottawa’s Robin Lehner or Craig Anderson, Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier, Carolina’s Cam Ward and Calgary’s Jonas Hiller.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To be honest, the Oilers weren’t going to get the type of return for Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle or Yakupov that would have an immediate positive impact upon their roster. At best they’re looking at more draft picks, prospects and young players, and the rebuild continues with no end in sight.

As Matheson notes, they do have a trade chip with the Penguins’ first-round pick. The Rangers lack a first rounder this year so they might be interested, especially as Talbot will likely hit next summer’s UFA market. If the Senators re-sign Andrew Hammond, I’m guessing Lehner gets dealt as they’ll want to keep the more experienced Anderson. The Oilers should stay away from trading for Ward, and the Flames won’t trade Hiller to their long-time rival. Jones could be available but it remains to be seen if he’s actually ready to be a starter or simply benefits from playing behind the Kings defense. I think the Leafs will re-sign Bernier.