The consensus around the NHL this month is that while the 2014 free agent class is thinner than in years past, there could be plenty of player movement via trade.
Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon has said publicly that the Panthers are open to trading the No.1 pick in the NHL Draft, while New York Islanders GM Garth Snow has said that he is willing to move the fifth overall selection.
Aside from assets (i.e. high draft picks), there could be a number of high-priced centers on the move as well. The list of pivots that are under contract for next season, but could be moved this offseason, includes Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks, Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens, Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators and Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks.
According to TSN, Kesler met with new Vancouver GM Jim Benning last week and reiterated his desire to be traded (he reportedly requested a trade during the regular season, but denied it publically).
Kesler is signed through 2015-16 and is set to make $5 million in each of the next two seasons. TSN reports that Kesler has a list of six teams that he would accept a trade to, with the Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers among those teams.
Plekanec is also signed through 2015-16 with an annual $5 million salary cap hit, and the 31-year-old is likely is no rush to leave the organization that drafted him in 2001.
Plekanec has a limited no-trade clause, but with Lars Eller, 25, establishing himself as a reliable two-way center for Montreal and Alex Galchenyuk, 20, likely to move to his natural position after spending two years on the wing, Plekanec may suddenly be expendable for the Canadiens.
Staying in the Atlantic Division, Senators GM Bryan Murray has made no secret that he is taking offers for Spezza.
The Ottawa Sun reports that Murray is seeking a packaged deal which would include a No.1 pick in 2014, a top-six forward and a prospect.
Spezza has a limited no-trade clause and has submitted a list of ten teams that he would not want to be dealt to. According to the Ottawa Sun, the Ducks, Blues, Predators and Canucks are all believed to have an interest in acquiring Spezza, who will earn $4 million next season, but has a $7 million salary cap hit.
The Sharks might also be in the market for a high-end center, should they trade Thornton. According to the Toronto Sun, the Maple Leafs are one of at least six teams to inquire about Thornton’s availability.
Thornton, who signed a three-year extension last season with an annual cap hit of $6.75 million, could be on the move after GM Doug Wilson said last month that the Sharks are in need of a culture change.
“I want players that want to play here,” Wilson told the San Jose Mercury News last week, “not just live here.”
Thornton turns 35 July 2 and finished second in the NHL last season with 65 assists in 82 games (only Sidney Crosby had more with 68 helpers on the year).