Thursday, June 26, 2014
Rumblings: Kesler watch, Stastny market
By Pierre LeBrun
UPDATED: 6:04 p.m. ET
The Ryan Kesler trade talks have taken an interesting twist on the eve of the NHL draft’s first round.
Sources around the NHL have told ESPN.com that the list of teams pursuing Kesler has grown over the past 24 hours.
We reporter earlier this week that Anaheim and Chicago were the two known front-runners on a short list. But it appears more teams have tried to jump into the race.
The question is, will Kesler allow them to? Armed with his no-trade clause, Kesler controls his destination and may not approve of some of these teams.
The No. 1 center on the unrestricted free-agent market continued to generate a lot of interest on Day 2 of the window to talk to free agents, and as of late Thursday afternoon around 15 NHL teams had communicated in one way or another with Paul Stastny's camp led by agent Matt Keator.
We reported Wednesday that the St. Louis Blues were among the inquisitive teams, add the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks to the long list of teams that have checked in on the Stastny camp. The Jets could certainly use a top-six center and their interest in Stastny is said to be quite legitimate. The Blackhawks have spoken to Vancouver about Ryan Kesler in their search for a No. 2 center. Imagine Stastny centering Patrick Kane? Problem is, not really sure how the Hawks could afford Stastny under their cap when you consider that the Stastny camp is telling clubs they don’t intend on taking a pay cut from the $6.66 million a year the Team USA Olympian was making on his expiring contract.
For the Blackhawks, the more people you talk to around the league the past few days, the more you hear about Chicago making calls and looking at a number of different scenarios. They might very well be an active team here over the next seven to 10 days.
However this process plays out for Stastny -- likely going right to July 1 -- the Stastny camp will certainly circle back to the Colorado Avalanche to give them a chance to improve their offer and try to retain Stastny.
A year ago the Minnesota Wild had so little cap room they had to essentially sit on the sidelines while the free-agent market played itself out.
Now with the cap going up plus Dany Heatley’s $7.5 million hit coming off the books, GM Chuck Fletcher can get back in the game.
"Yes, it’s nice to be able to get involved more, I spoke with several agents yesterday," Fletcher told ESPN.com on Thursday morning.
Fletcher would not say who he spoke to, but a separate source confirmed he had spoken with, among others, agent Steve Bartlett, who represents UFA winger Thomas Vanek. Whether or not that gets done -- as so many have been predicting for a year -- remains to be seen. I think it’s really going to depend on term, not sure the Wild want another super long-term deal on their books. If Vanek signs in Minnesota, it’s not for more than three or four years in my estimation.
As of late Thursday afternoon, we’re told eight to 10 teams had communicated some level of interest in Vanek, although at this point I’d rate about four teams with series interest.
While Fletcher would not comment on specific UFA targets, he did identify general needs.
"If we don’t re-sign [winger] Matt Moulson and [defenseman] Clayton Stoner, then we have to replace those players," Fletcher said of his two pending UFAs. "In an ideal world, we’re looking for a guy who can chip in offensively up front and a fifth/sixth defenseman. Obviously there’s options in both those areas where the price tag might vary a little bit."
It doesn’t sound very probable for Moulson to re-sign.
"I think he’s got to look at what the best fit for him is. We do, too," Fletcher said. "I think it’s fair to say both sides are looking at what’s out there."
- Veteran agent Don Meehan and his Newport Sports team met Thursday with Montreal Canadiens management regarding RFA star blueliner P.K. Subban. There have been people speculating about a possible offer sheet but that appears to be a waste of time, a Habs source telling ESPN.com that the club would match it in no time.
- The Edmonton Oilers acquired and signed defenseman Nikita Nikitin on Wednesday but they’re far from done. Or hope not to be. A source says the Oilers still want to acquire another established defenseman and also upgrade at center.
- Matt Niskanen, one of the top UFA defensemen, informed the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday that he was going to the July 1 market to see what’s out there.
"Matt has decided to see what the free-agent market is," Niskanen’s agent, Neil Sheehy, told ESPN.com on Thursday. "He’ll make a decision after he’s seen all the teams interested and decide what’s the right fit. Pittsburgh isn’t out by any means, but I think where the market is going to be and what they’ll be able to do is going to be a contrast. So we’ll see where this all leads."
- Former Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. will be joining the Boston Bruins front office, a source told ESPN.com. Ferguson has been with the San Jose Sharks for a number of years.