If the Caps hope to trade for a top-line right wing before or during the NHL draft later this month – and the key word is hope – there’s a guy named Phil Kessel being dangled just north of the border.
At 27, Kessel is in the prime of his career but is coming off his least productive season in seven years – 25 goals, 61 points, minus-34 in 82 games with the Maple Leafs.
Before that, Kessel had scored 30 or more goals five times in his career and had reached 80 points twice. But he also has seven years remaining on an eight-year, $64 million contract that carries an $8 million cap hit.
Heard enough? Thought so.
Unless a team can dump significant salary in exchange for Kessel, the field of suitors for the Wisconsin-born sniper will be a small one.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported over the weekend that the Leafs are seeking draft picks and top prospects for Kessel. The Leafs own the fourth pick overall in the draft, which will take place June 26-27 in Sunrise, Fla., and are open to moving that pick as well.
"It's something we would definitely look at," Maple Leafs interim co-general manager Kyle Dubas told the Toronto Star on Saturday. "If someone else was adamant about a player, we're pretty comfortable with the players in that cluster.
"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."
As noted by Caps general manager Brian MacLellan, this year’s crop of UFA right wings is a thin one, with Marty St. Louis, Justin Williams, Michael Frolik, Antoine Vermette and Michael Ryder in the mix.
However, next year’s crop of UFAs could be this summer’s trade bait and among the right wings who could be dangled are Shane Doan [$5.3 million] Radim Vrbata $5 million], Loui Eriksson [$4.25 million], Jakub Voracek [$4.25 million] and Kyle Okposo [$2.8 million].
And then there’s Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp, a right-handed shot whom the Caps reportedly had interest in at this year’s trade deadline. Sharp has two years and $10.5 million remaining on a contract that carries a $5.9 million cap hit.
If the Caps aren’t convinced anyone on either of those lists can better their team without breaking the bank, we could see Andre Burakovsky or Tom Wilson starting next season on the Caps’ top line.
New Phantoms coach? According to a report on Philly.com, the head coach of Connor McDavid and the OHL Erie Otters, Kris Knoblauch, has interviewed for the head coaching position of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL. Knoblauch also coached Burakovsky when he played in Erie last season. If he’s hired, he’ll be replacing Phantoms coach and former Caps head coach Terry Murray.