Powered By Panago: The Draft Day Rumour Roundup

Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports

It’s Draft Day!

The talk all year has been Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, but the draft itself is especially fun because the other 200 players in the league end up tossed around, traded, signed, and essentially thrown into the vortex of chaos better known as ‘GMs on the draft floor’.

I’m currently sitting in my beach house in Fort Lauderdale getting prepped for the draft (and waiting for the room to stop spinning, because I’m on the beach! There was Corona! Judge me) – so let’s do a roundup of the best rumors, reports, and storylines coming out of the hockey universe today. 

Phil Kessel Trade Watch

Until the draft has wrapped up on Saturday, it’s still safe to assume that winger Phil Kessel could be on the trading block. Hell, it might even be safe to assume that he’s on the trading block until he either gets moved or his contract expires. 

As one of the highest cap hit players for the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s unsurprising to see the team trying to move him when team president Brendan Shanahan suggests that the chemistry wasn’t there, but the players were very talented. Here’s what we’re hearing about Kessel:

  • James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail cautions fans not to expect the Leafs to accept a lowball offer on Kessel, since he’s talented enough to bring in a high yield return. This may mean that a trade is going to take a while to go down – and that’s not a bad thing. Kessel has scored the fifth highest number of goals in the NHL – yes, the entire NHL – since getting dealt to the Leafs in 2009. Why accept a bargain for that kind of offensive talent? 
  • this is worth thinking about
  • We talked last week about how the Pittsburgh Penguins are ‘kicking tires’ on Kessel. Depending on who you listen to, this is either an intriguing and realistic possibility or the worst idea ever
  • Chris Johnston of Sportsnet confirms that teams are interested in Kessel. As supported by the idea presented by Mirtle (see above) that Toronto can afford to let Kessel’s price drive itself back up from the attempted bargains teams are offering, there are clearly multiple bidders in play for the American-born winger – if not with serious offers right now, then at least with a serious and healthy curiosity about what it would take to be considered a serious offer-maker. 

Pacific Division: Sam Gagner, Tyler Toffoli, and Kevin Bieksa

  • The Arizona Coyotes, as reported through The Leafs Nation, could be contemplating the buyout of former Edmonton Oilers centre Sam Gagner – and if they do, it’s possible the Leafs would want to take him on. It’s important to consider that Gagner hasn’t developed into a possession driver, but also hasn’t managed to develop into a play driver — and for a club looking to rebuild, the Coyotes likely don’t want to have Gagner taking up space. The only concern with this rumor, of course, is that the Coyotes could likely get a return for Gagner – so unless teams would only want a pick for the forward (which would lower their already-low salary payroll), buying him out is actually the better option for the club next season. 
  • Kevin Bieksa has agreed to waive his NTC for a move to the San Jose Sharks
  • Tyler Toffoli is the first of four high-profile pending restricted free agents to come to terms with his club, signing a two year, $6.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Kings. That crosses him off a list that still includes defenseman Dougie Hamilton and forwards Brandon Saad and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Odds and Ends

  • Dallas Eakins is the new head coach of the San Diego Gulls, the new AHL affiliate for the Anaheim Ducks. Follows train of thought that the former Toronto Marlies head coach was headed back to coach in the minors following his unsuccessful stint with the Edmonton Oilers. 
  • Robin Lehner has been dealt from the Ottawa Senators to the Buffalo Sabres, despite a lingering concern that even though the Senators have promised he’s made a full recovery, he could have lingering issues with a concussion from this year. The Sabres are taking a huge risk by offering up a first round pick for an unproven goaltender, but the reaction timing for Lehner has proven to be his biggest asset. If he can regain his game and make the best recovery possible given the concussion he sustained midway through the 2014-2015 season, his potential NHL starter upside could pay off for a Sabres club that’s currently extremely depleted in net. 
  • Ryan O’Reilly seems to be the next big trade to watch for (other than Phil Kessel, that is). Both Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie seem to think that there’s high interest in the two way centre and that a trade is imminent. Putting him on the Leafs would be a step in the acceleration of a rebuild, suggesting that ‘scorched earth’ isn’t exactly the theme of 2015-2016 – but the cap hit he’s asking for next year? Obnoxiously high. Have to wonder how that goes down. 
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        • Puck_Stops_Here

          Please Toronto do not get O’Reilly. The price to get him would be too high for a rebuilding club and the salary he wants is too high. If this rebuild will take say 5 years, he’ll almost be 30 years old and just about be out of his prime.

          • silentbob

            Not every player has to be in their primes when a team is competitive.

            IF they think O’Reilly has other ways to contribute – leadership (maybe they see him as captain material) etc.. he could fit in as the/one of the veteran leaders of a team mostly younger then him.

            I dunno if O’Reilly is/can be that kind of player/influence but if he can be, I could see that move making sense.