The Blues are looking to add offense this summer. As luck would have it, many proven scorers are in play this summer -- especially via the trade route.
Most of the current Blues scuttlebutt is centered on Ottawa center Jason Spezza. He is looking for a fresh start and the Senators are willing to accommodate him as part of an offseason overhaul.
Spezza has become a whipping boy for fans and media types frustrated by Ottawa's inability to win more. That is one reason why he wants out.
"I think there's a couple of things: Certainly the fact that he's been in Ottawa for 11 years now and he thinks that he's been pointed out more often than a lot as far as what's happened with the team," general manager Bryan Murray told the Ottawa Sun,
"He's the star and that happens. Maybe he listens to the people too often and he's kind of the mind that 'if I go elsewhere I won't be that guy' and won't be quite as evident."
The Sun listed the Blues and Ducks as the favorites to trade for Spezza. The Senators could decide between taking back size (Patrik Berglund?) or speed (Andrew Cogliano?) in the return package.
The Senators also want a No. 1 pick and a prospect in a Spezza deal. The Blues are slated to pick 21st overall in the coming NHL Draft and the Ducks pick in the No. 24 slot.
The Sun reports that Calgary made a pitch for Spezza, but it fell short. Then there is a very good question of whether Spezza would accept a trade to that rebuilding team.
The Predators and Canucks are also possibilities. Nashville is looking to add scoring for new coach Peter Laviolette and Vancouver is looking to trade unhappy center Ryan Kesler and replace him with a legitimate threat.
Speaking of Kesler, the Sun identified the Blues as one of the many teams talking to the Canucks about acquiring him. (Given some of the spirited the battles the Blues have had with Kesler and Co., that would be interesting.)
There will be plenty of Plan B and Plan C options as general manager Doug Armstrong explores his options.
Vincent Lecavalier is a prime example. Last summer he was one of the offensive forwards the Blues targeted in free agency.
He ultimately landed in Philadelphia with a five-year, $22.5 million contract. This seemed like a bad fit at the time and, sure enough, Lecavalier drifted into a fourth-line role for the Flyers.
This was just another in a long line of expensive Paul Holmgren mistakes, which is why he yielded control of the daily hockey operation to Ron Hextall after the season. Now Hextall is looking to deal Lecavalier to clear some desperately needed cap space.
The contract is front-loaded, with Lecavalier earning $6 million in the first two seasons, then $4.5 million in Year 3 and $3 million in each of the last two seasons. That leaves him with a manageable salary cap number ($4.5 million) and team-friendly salaries at the back of the contract.
The Flyers tried Lecavalier in various combinations, both at his natural center spot and on the wing. He played his best hockey after landing in the middle of the fourth line.
Despite all that, Lecavalier still scored 20 goals in 69 games, including eight on the power play.
Put in the right position -- at center between two energetic wingers, down low on the power play -- he could still offer value. He could be an attractive fallback for teams unable or unwilling to pay the trade price for Spezza, Kesler, Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau.
The Flyers won't expect much in return for the salary cap relief. Perhaps that team will even pay some of Lecavalier's contract to move that contract.
CSN Philadelphia listed Nashville, Ottawa, Florida, Dallas and Calgary as possible destinations for Lecavalier.
Here is some other developments around the league:
- The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes that winger James Neal lacks no-trade protection in his contract. With 11 players headed toward unrestricted free agency -- including key defenseman Matt Niskanen -- something has to give. The team needs to free up salary cap space. The Tribune-Review notes that several teams contacted Neal's agent in recent weeks. New GM Jim Rutherford told reporters he digesting lots of trade offers from colleagues aware of his cap plight.
- Thornton has full no-trade protection in San Jose in his three-year contract extension. His agent (and brother) John Thornton said Jumbo Joe isn't eager to move on. "If he felt the fans didn't want him in San Jose, he might re-think things," John Thornton told the San Jose Mercury News.
- The Rangers seem certain to use give Brad Richards a compliance buyout and gain $6.6 million in badly needed cap space. Richards could offer his next team a bit more than, say, Derek Roy gave the Blues this season.
- Since winger Marian Gaborik gave the Kings some much-appreciated postseason goal production, that team could buck up to signing the pending unrestricted free agent. Buying out No. 2 center Mike Richards could give that franchise the room to make that move.
- Sportsnet speculates that old friend David Perron could be one of the forwards the Oilers shop while trying to retool their roster. Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov are other obvious candidates. Edmonton needs to add toughness and shore up its defense. If the Maple Leafs are indeed willing to move Dion Phaneuf, the Oilers could send quite a bit of firepower Toronto's way.
- The Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that the Wild have cooled on pending UFA Thomas Vanek, whose poor postseason for the Canadiens could cost him some money. Vanek turned down an extension in the $50 million earlier this season from the Islanders, so he has high salary expectations.
- While the Predators are looking to add offense, general manager David Poile told reporters that he has absolutely no interest in moving defenseman Shea Weber to make that happen. His 14-year, $110-million contract -- the result of an ludicrous RFA offer sheet from the hapless Holmgren -- was front-loaded. The Predators paid $28 million of that deal during the first two years.
- The Capitals have been working to keep center Mikhail Grabovski out of free agency. There is mutual interest in getting a deal done before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
- Since veteran defenseman Dan Boyle hasn't engaged the New York Islanders yet, speculation is growing that he will opt for unrestricted free agency. The Islanders spent a fifth-round pick for his exclusive negotiating rights, but the team may have to move those rights if Boyle rejects their overtures.