Latest on Phil Kessel and Kyle Okposo, plus updates on the Sharks and Panthers. 

Updates on Kessel and Okposo.

Will the Leafs trade Phil Kessel at the 2015 NHL Draft?

Will the Leafs trade Phil Kessel at the 2015 NHL Draft?

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin is doubtful every NHL team is scared off a Phil Kessel deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs because of his contract, or by talk of the Leafs seeking a high return for the winger. Larkin observes the Leafs have sufficient cap space to absorb part of Kessel’s salary or take on a less expensive, shorter-term contract and still have enough room to re-sign Jonathan Bernier and Nazem Kadri. He also suggests talk of frustration at the Leafs’ asking price may be a ploy by a Kessel suitor to lower the return. While Larkin believes there’s a 25 percent chance Kessel gets dealt this week, he doesn’t believe there’s no chance.

POST-GAZETTE.COM: Dave Molinari reports the Pittsburgh Penguins are believed to have “at least a “kick-the-tires” level of interest” in Phil Kessel because of the lack of top-six wingers currently in play. Absorbing Kessel’s salary, however, would be a concern for the Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel to Pittsburgh is a long shot. The Leafs would definitely have to pick up part of his salary, and the Penguins will have to part with a couple of their most promising young players. Kessel undoubtedly has value on the trade market, but the Leafs aren’t going to simply give him away just to be rid of him and his contract. They want a solid return, and if they don’t get it this summer, I believe they’re comfortable keeping him for next season in hopes improved play under Mike Babcock bolsters his trade value. 

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James wonders if the Red Wings should look into acquiring New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo, who is rumored to be available. She cites his value as a player and his affordable cap hit ($2.8 million) for this season, but also points out he’s a UFA next summer and could prove expensive to re-sign. “What it comes down to is figuring out whether Okposo is worth the risk,” concludes St. James.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. A Cup contender seeking depth at right wing might be willing to risk Okposo as a short-term pickup if he can help them win a championship. The Wings aren’t in that category for next season. 

Latest on the Sharks and Panthers.

CSN BAY AREA: Kevin Kurz speculates there’s a “real possibility” the San Jose Sharks could have a blockbuster deal in the works involving one of their core players. Would aging veterans Joe Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau prefer to relocate to a team that has better prospects of winning in the immediate future? Was Brent Burns shifted back to defense last season in order to increase his trade value? Is Logan Couture still happy here, after he was critical of the team’s “not great” culture? Is Justin Braun expendable after he struggled in the first year after signing a big contract extension? These are all fair questions.” Kurz also notes the Sharks have the cap space to target a cap-strapped rival with an offer sheet for a top RFA player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the Sharks are more likely to pitch an offer sheet at a top RFA than to swing a blockbuster trade involving Thornton, Marleau or Couture. Thornton and Marleau insist they’re not waiving their no-movement clauses. Couture is a player you build around. Unless he’s demanding a trade, it would be foolish to move him. Burns or Braun I could see as trade options, though I don’t think moving either guy is a wise decision unless you’re getting a terrific return. 

NHL.COM: Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon said his team is open to trading their first-round pick (11th overall) in the 2015 Draft if it would land them an established scorer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phil Kessel to Florida, anyone? 😉