The latest on Phil Kessel, Steven Stamkos, Dougie Hamilton, Patrick Sharp and more.

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Latest on the Maple Leafs.

Interest growing in Phil Kessel?

Interest growing in Phil Kessel?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports a handful of teams have spoken with the Toronto Maple Leafs regarding their asking price for winger Phil Kessel at this weekend’s NHL Draft Combine. Friedman said if a trade were to take place it would not happen for at least a couple of weeks. Kessel has seven years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $8 million with a limited no-trade clause.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL Draft weekend (June 26-27) is approaching, which is the traditional period when the most off-season trade activity occurs. That will explain why it could take at least two weeks for a possible Kessel trade to occur, if it happens at all. Interested clubs will also wait and see what next season’s salary cap could be so they’ll know how much cap space they have to work with. Just because there’s some interest in Kessel, however, doesn’t mean he’s certain to be dealt. His hefty contract is as much a hindrance as his limited NTC. To facilitate a trade, the Leafs could be forced to pick up part of his salary.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran reports interim Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas admits it’s possible his club could trade their first-round pick (fourth overall) to acquire other draft assets if a rival club was interested in moving up in the draft order. “We need to be acquiring as many draft pick assets as we can, as many prospects as we can. If there was something that made sense, we’d be open to listening and having some thorough discussions on the fourth pick,” said Dubas. “Everyone is feeling us out,” said Mark Hunter, the Leafs other interim co-GM. “They’re talking to Brendan Shanahan too. There’s lots of talk going on. Nothing concrete.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before Leafs fans start freaking out, just because management is willing to listen to offers from clubs interested in moving up in the draft order doesn’t mean they’re going to trade their pick. This is no different than when teams with the first-overall selection claim they’re willing to listen to offers for it. That doesn’t mean they’re definitely trading that pick. As McGran suggests, the asking price could be another first-round pick (the Leafs also have Nashville’s first-round selection) plus a second-round pick. 

Could Stamkos be unhappy in Tampa Bay?

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons wrote consecutive articles suggesting things might not be rosy between Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. He cites Stamkos’ reduced ice time, playing him on the wing instead of center and the fact he wasn’t on the ice in the final seconds of Game One of the Cup Final. The Lightning captain is eligible for UFA status next summer, prompting Simmons to wonder if Stamkos’ relationship with Cooper could affect the club’s efforts to re-sign him…Simmons also speculates the Buffalo Sabres could be an offseason trade destination for Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Stamkos will re-sign with the Lightning. The Bolts captain seems to be buying into Cooper’s system and I’ve seen no indication of unhappiness on his part over his playing time or positioning. If next season opens with Stamkos still unsigned, then I might start wondering if he has a future in Tampa Bay…As for Sharp, he’s got a limited no-trade clause and Buffalo could be on his “do not trade” list. 

Could the Rangers move Yandle?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes defenseman Keith Yandle didn’t resemble a commodity worth the first-round pick and top prospect the Rangers paid to acquire him from Arizona. Yandle has a year left on his contract at a cap hit of $2.65 million, with the Coyotes picking up the other half. Brooks doubts the Rangers will re-sign him and suggests packaging the blueliner with backup Cam Talbot for a strong, grinding physical forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Yandle acquisition was all about staging a Cup run this season. Given the Blueshirts limited cap space, it wouldn’t surprise me if they try to move him out this summer. 

Rumor roundup from the Boston Globe.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Fluto Shinzawa reports the threat of an offer sheet gives Boston Bruins RFA defenseman Dougie Hamilton some leverage. He’s coming off an entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. Shinzawa notes offer sheets are rare but acknowledges a team like the Edmonton Oilers might be willing to sacrifice a compensation package of draft picks by targeting a cap-strapped club like the Bruins. “A team that signs a player to an offer sheet worth $5,478,986 to $7,305,316 annually would have to cede first-, second-, and third-round picks… To sign a player for $7,305,316 to $9,131,645 annually, a team would have to give up two firsts, one second-, and one third-round pick.”

Shinzawa notes the Ottawa Senators are listening to offers for Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, with the latter likely to attract the best return. The Vancouver Canucks are “seeking return” for Eddie Lack. He considers Canucks starter Ryan Miller untradeable because of the two years and $12 million left on his contract. Buffalo, Edmonton and San Jose need goaltending help.

The Boston Bruins could make winger Loui Eriksson, who’s a year away from UFA status, a trade chip this summer. They could seek a defenseman in return.

The New Jersey Devils could aggressively pursue former Devil Paul Martin via free agency.

The Winnipeg Jets hope to re-sign winger Drew Stafford, who’s also eligible for UFA status this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shinzawa believes the Bruins would match an offer sheet in the lower area of that $5.478 to $7.3 million range but not in the upper level. The Oilers have over $16 million in cap space so they have the room to make a bold move like signing Hamilton to an offer sheet. Of course, Hamilton has to sign it. If he prefers to stay in Boston, it won’t matter how much the Oilers – or any other club – are willing to pay…Martin is 34 and his window of opportunity to play for a Cup contender is limited. I think he prefers signing with a team that will give him a good shot at winning a championship. 

Soderberg done in Boston?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Boston Bruins management told pending UFA center Carl Soderberg it’s “very unlikely” they’ll re-sign him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This summer’s shallow pool of UFA talent should help Soderberg quickly land with another club when the market opens at noon ET on July 1.