Speculation over possible destinations for Phil Kessel, possible trade options for the Boston Bruins and goalie targets for the Edmonton Oilers. 

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Where could Kessel get dealt?

SPORTSNET.CA: Elliotte Friedman speculated over potential trade destinations for Toronto Maple Leafs winger Phil Kessel. He noted the Nashville Predators had interest in Kessel in the past, but he doubts they’re a destination now, citing the need to re-sign young stars Filip Forsberg and Seth Jones in the near future. He wondered if the St. Louis Blues might be a fit, though he notes there could be budget issues trying to fit Kessel and Vladimir Tarasenko under their cap payroll. When asked about the Florida Panthers, Friedman believes Kessel would love to go there. He also suggests the Calgary Flames, as former Leafs GM Brian Burke is now their team president, though he’s not sure how involved he is in the day-to-day operations.

Who could be suitors for Phil Kessel this summer?

Who could be suitors for Phil Kessel this summer?

TSN (via TODAY’S SLAPSHOT):  Bob McKenzie believes the Leafs will try to trade Kessel this summer, though whether they can find a suitable deal remains to be seen. He notes the Panthers’ need for a veteran scoring winger but points out they’re “not a moneybags team” and Kessel makes a lot of cash. He believes the problem the Leafs will face with any of these teams who might have some interest in Kessel (Panthers, Predators, Blues) is that “everybody is going to want to try to get him for a deep, deep discount.” He adds, “What’s the price, what’s our return, and how valuable is the cap space if we’re not getting back as many tangible assets as we would like because we are unloading a contract that a lot of people think is onerous.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve suggested the Leafs might have to pick up part of Kessel’s salary to facilitate a trade this summer. As McKenzie points out, the winger’s contract is a potential stumbling block.  Kessel’s $8 million per season takes up a big chunk of cap space. With two-thirds of the NHL’s 30 teams carrying payrolls in exceed of $55 million (13 of those over $60 million), that’s not a contract most teams can easily absorb. Of those sitting under $55 million, many of them (like Nashville) are not known as cap ceiling teams.

I agree with Friedman that the Preds probably aren’t a destination now. They’re a budget team and are currently trying to re-sign Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro, plus there’s also Jones and Forsberg to consider after next season. It could cost the Blues around $7 million annually to re-sign Tarasenko. That won’t leave much room for a big-ticket addition like Kessel unless they can ship around $8 million in salary back to Toronto, or convince the Leafs to pick up part of his salary. After re-signing Jaromir Jagr, I don’t think the Panthers are still interested in Kessel. 

The Flames have lots of cap room and it’s expected they’ll be among the few big-spending clubs this summer, but I’m not convinced they’re a serious player for Kessel. Perhaps if they trade away Jiri Hudler (who’s 31, a pending UFA next summer and coming off a career-best 76-point season) this summer, then Kessel could be a fit. Otherwise, I just don’t see it. The Flames also must be careful not to tie up too much long-term payroll as they’ve got budding stars Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett to re-sign within the next two years.

Again, I’m not saying the Leafs can’t trade Kessel or that he’s impossible to move. I’m simply pointing out that this isn’t going to be easy because of his big contract, the high number of teams with limited cap space to comfortably absorb that contract, and the expected marginal increase in the cap ceiling for next season. Either the Leafs pick up part of his contract or take on some significant salary in return via two or three players or one toxic contract. 

Latest on the Bruins.

CSNNE.COM: Joe Haggerty believes winger Milan Lucic, who is eligible next summer for UFA status,  is the player Boston Bruins management must look long and hard at this summer. Lucic could fetch the best return, unless the Bruins decide to trade RFA defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who could become a target for an offer sheet. If the Bruins part ways with Lucic, Haggerty suggests they target a cap-strapped team like the Chicago Blackhawks. Haggerty claims he’s heard defenseman Brent Seabrook “might be the guy that gets traded.” He believes the Bruins will have to get in line for Seabrook’s services, as the Edmonton Oilers and other clubs will go after him. If the Bruins can free up some cap space, Haggerty suggests pursuing Anaheim Ducks UFA winger Matt Beleskey.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Fluto Shinzawa reports pending UFA forward Carl Soderberg isn’t the only player the Bruins could part ways with this summer. He suggests winger Loui Eriksson, who’s eligible next summer for UFA status, could also hit this summer’s trade block.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see the Bruins trading Hamilton out of fear he might get an offer sheet. I believe they’ll gamble that he won’t get one. If he does, they’ll match and deal with the cap consequences, which could mean shedding salary (Lucic or Eriksson) this summer. Forget about prying Seabrook out of Chicago, as he’s too valuable to their defense corps. Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Kris Versteeg are more likely trade candidates, and none of them will interest the Bruins, who have cap issues of their own to deal with this summer. 

Oilers goaltending options.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton reviewed potential goaltending options for the Edmonton Oilers. In addition to their current starter Ben Scrivens, Clinton evaluates New York Rangers’ Cam Talbot, Ottawa’s Robin Lehner and Anaheim’s John Gibson.  Talbot appears the best option, while the Oilers may have been simply “kicking the tires” on Gibson.

TSN (via TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): Darren Dreger claims the Oilers and Buffalo Sabres are believed to have interest in Lehner. Senators GM Bryan Murray will want a good return, as he doesn’t want to repeat the mistake he made with Ben Bishop when he dealt him to Tampa Bay for a fourth-round pick.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cites colleague Jim Matheson claiming the Dallas Stars are shopping starter Kari Lehtonen. Staples feels the Oilers shouldn’t pursue him, citing his age (32), contract (three years remaining at $5.9 million annually) and declining performance.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Oilers will take serious looks at Lehner and Talbot. I don’t believe the Ducks are keen to part with Gibson. I can see them heading into next season with Bibson and Andersen as their tandem to see how things shake out. The return for Bishop was a fourth-round pick plus forward Cory Conacher, though the latter didn’t last long with the Senators.