Latest on Phil Kessel and Tuukka Rask, plus updates on the Penguins and Capitals search for scoring depth via trade.

Updates on the Maple Leafs.

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston cites a report claiming the Toronto Maple Leafs have told at least one team they’re willing to pick up $2 million of right wing Phil Kessel’s salary to facilitate a trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve consistently said for months, Kessel’s $8 million annual cap hit is a significant stumbling block, especially in an offseason when the salary cap marginally increased while 20 teams have payrolls in excess of $55 million. Teams are definitely interested in Kessel’s scoring talent, but not that hefty salary. 

Should the Leafs pursue Mike Richards?

Should the Leafs pursue Mike Richards?

Luke Fox suggests the Toronto Maple Leafs should seize the opportunity to sign former LA Kings center Mike Richards to an affordable one-year contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox wrote this before reports emerged the Kings terminated Richards contract regarding an undisclosed off-ice incident, so let’s not jump all over him for that. Though this isn’t a trade rumor, I decided it worthwhile to include it here as it pertains to the Leafs.

Even if the Kings had simply bought out Richards, I wouldn’t recommend the Leafs pursue him. Anyone willing to make an honest appraisal of Richards’ performance in recent years understands he’s clearly in decline.

Some observers still feel Richards can regain the stellar form he had with the Philadelphia Flyers if only he played for a different team, laying blame at Kings coach Darryl Sutter. That’s just nonsense. I’m not going to speculate about Richards’ lifestyle affecting his performance, as that’s only based so far on rumors and innuendo. Noting Richards aggressive two-way style of play, I suggest that’s taken a considerable toll upon his performance. Some players tend to fade sooner than others. That could be the case with Richards.

Latest Bruins and Penguins Trade Rumors.

SPORTSNET: Damien Cox notes the Boston Bruins logjam in goal with Tuukka Rask, Martin Jones, Malcolm Subban and unsigned collegian Zane McIntyre. He speculates one of them could be dealt, perhaps to San Jose. Noting the Bruins didn’t clear much cap space in their recent trades of Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic, Cox wonders if Rask ($7 million cap hit) could be dealt.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins GM Don Sweeney told TSN’s Darren Dreger he’s not trading Rask. Considering Sweeney’s recent moves weakened the Bruins roster, trading Rask (the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner) would be foolhardy. 

Cox notes that Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford can choose between Patrick Sharp, Phil Kessel, Jeff Skinner, T.J. Oshie and free agent Martin St. Louis as possibilities to bolster his scoring depth on the wing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of these choices, St. Louis would be the most affordable, as he can likely be had for a bonus-laden deal with a low base salary (perhaps $2.5 million) without giving up other assets. St Louis, who recently turned 40, noticeably declined this season. Oshie is the most affordable trade option in terms of salary ($4.175 million cap hit for two more seasons). Kessel ($8 million per), Sharp ($5.9 million) and Skinner ($5.75 million) are considerably more expensive. 

 

Capitals to seek scoring depth via trade.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Alex Prewitt reports Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said his quest to add a top-six winger will likely take him down the trade path. MacLellan declined to say who he might target, but Prewitt points out Chicago’s Patrick Sharp and St. Louis’ T.J. Oshie are rumored to be available.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals and Blackhawks had talks about Sharp prior to the March trade deadline. Wouldn’t surprise me if they’re revisiting those discussions.