As the 2013-14 NHL season is officially completed, many teams will be looking to move around current players while also replacing specific roles. Some players have been longtime members, while others are briefly passing through on the road to free agency. With these factors in addition to salary caps limiting the amount of money teams can spend on certain players, this summer is anticipated to see current contracts transferred and new ones created. Come next season, expect many well-known names to be sporting a new sweater.
Why Kesler may leave Vancouver: The two-time U.S. Olympian and former Selke Trophy winner originally asked to be moved out of Vancouver back in March before the trade deadline, but the team was unable to find the right buyer. After failing to make the postseason for the first time in 5 years, Ryan Kesler has reinstated his request to recently hired Vancouver GM Jim Benning. Kesler, who has 2 years remaining on his contract, recorded 25 goals and 43 points last season and is certain to attract several teams in need of a No. 2 centerman. With the Canucks dismantling its previously strong goaltending tandem and firing head coach John Tortorella within the last year, receiving a fair return to help Vancouver turn itself around will be the ultimate deciding factor for Kesler's wish to come true.
Where Kesler could land: With a no-movement clause in his contract, Kesler has submitted a list of 6 teams to which he would accept a trade. That list reportedly inlcudes the Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers (as well as the Tampa Bay Lightning). Benning has made it clear, however, that he intends on receiving a well-established player in return besides draft picks and future considerations to help fill the void Kesler would leave behind. The Anaheim Ducks, who is in need of a 2nd line center, would make sense for Kesler to target, however, there are other options the Ducks may explore.
Why Spezza may leave Ottawa: Like Kesler, Jason Spezza has asked the only team he has ever called home for a trade this offseason, and Senators GM Bryan Murray is willing to comply. Spezza, who assumed the role of captain after Daniel Alfredsson signed with the Detroit Red Wings last year, was the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2001. With only a year left on his contract, Spezza's salary next season would be at $4-million, making his financial commitment more attractive to teams. Trading the 31-year-old center would also save the Senators a $7-million cap hit before next season. Murray said a few teams have already shown interest in Spezza, which is no surprise considering the promising years he still has left ahead of him.
Where Spezza could land: With a modified no-movement clause, Spezza has submitted a list of 10 teams he would not accept a trade to. Of these teams, 4 of them include the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets, as Spezza has expressed his desire to no longer play for a Canadian team. Murray said he wants to "send him somewhere we don't have to play him every night." Assuming Spezza's desire to leave is based on competing for the Stanley Cup, that very well could work out for Murray, as the Western Conference has many Cup contenders Spezza may find appealing. If they do not land Kesler, the Anaheim Ducks could be a likely destination for Spezza. Like Benning though, Murray will expect more than just draft picks in return for Ottawa's longtime center.
Vincent Lecavalier - Philadelphia Flyers
Why Lecavalier may leave Philadelphia: The Flyers turned many heads when they signed Lecavalier to a $22.5-million, five-year contract after being bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning last summer. Although Lecavalier finished last season with 20 goals, coach Craig Berube had difficulty finding a permanent spot for the 16-year veteran center. The Flyers' limited salary cap space is the main reason why Lecavalier could end up somewhere else next season. Moving the 34-year-old will be one of GM Ron Hextall's top priorities in order to create more cap space for the Flyers, who is in need of signing a left wing to play alongside Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek on the first line next season.
Where Lecavalier could land: Philadelphia, who is all out of compliance buyouts, can only move Lecavalier via trade or by a regular non-compliance buyout, which could prove to be tricky for a few reasons. In addition to a no-movement clause, Lecavlier's age and declining play most likely means the Flyers would receive less in return. Further, if he is bought out, the Philadelphia is still on the hook for a portion of his salary, both in actual dollars and against the cap. Lecavalier, who signed with Philadelphia largely due to Peter Laviolette's offensive coaching style, has been linked to the Nashville Predators, but no further connections confirming this have been reported. A team in need of a 2nd or 3rd line forward with leadership experience, like the Florida Panthers who lost Stephen Weiss to free agency last summer, might be a good fit for Lecavalier.
Why Miller may leave St. Louis: The Blues made a blockbuster deal when they acquired Ryan Miller in net before last season's trade deadline. Unfortunately, it did not work out as planned and now St. Louis has decided to instead re-sign goaltender Brian Elliot, which indicates Miller will more than likely be an available free agent next month. Miller's weaker performance towards the end of last season is something to carefully consider, but he is likely to be the top goaltender available on the UFA market.
Where Miller could land: At age 34, Miller is still capable of a handling a No. 1 goaltender position. Teams that may be in need of a starting goalie this upcoming season include the Washington Capitals, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames. It has been speculated for a while that Miller wants to play in California in order to live closer to his wife, who is an actress. The Anaheim Ducks, who is sticking with John Gibson and Frederik Andersen as a tandem, and the San Jose Sharks, who just re-signed Alex Stalock, however, do not have interest in Miller. Although it may not be right next to Hollywood, the Vancouver Canucks may appeal to Miller. Depending on his desire to play as a starter, Miller could also target the Pittsburgh Penguins, who is currently in a revamping period of management.
Why Boyle may leave New York: Having recently been traded from San Jose, Boyle's 6-year tenure with the Sharks shows the veteran defenseman is still worthy of competing for many teams this upcoming season. Although the Islanders currently own his rights, Boyle has already indicated he is looking to sign elsewhere once he becomes a free agent next month, targeting a Stanley Cup contender. The only fault Boyle has recently shown is a slower pace in play after receiving a head injury early last season that left him sidelined for 2 weeks.
Where Boyle could land: Boyle is seeking a two-year contract regardless of where he signs. It has been reported that he has interest in the Toronto Maple Leafs. This would not necessarily add up with Boyle's original plan of playing for a Cup contender, given Toronto's recent performance the past few seasons. With the defensive UFA market on the weaker side this offseason, Boyle should have a fair amount of teams catering to him looking for a seasoned defenseman.
Why Brodeur may leave New Jersey: Marty Brodeur has most likely played his last game in a Devils uniform. With his contract expiring June 30th, Brodeur has already stated he wants to play at least one more season and will look to any team wishing to utilize his services, including New Jersey, although he is expecting to end up elsewhere. Brodeur understands that the Devils have shifted focus to Cory Schneider, who is aiming to be its starting goaltender, and out of respect is willing to continue somewhere else so that New Jersey can move on. Regardless of where he plays next year, no one will ever question Brodeur's loyalty or commitment he has given to the Devils throughout the last 2 decades.
Where Brodeur could land: Brodeur has a specific plan on how he wants to approach the free agency market. If given the offer of back-up goalie, then Brodeur wants to play for a team that has a chance of competing for the Stanley Cup. If able to remain a starting goalie, then he will be open to more teams, excluding playoff opportunities. So far the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, and Minnesota Wild are reportedly interested in acquiring Brodeur in net, but many more teams are anticipated to show interest for the 42-year-old next month.
Why Richards may leave New York: The Rangers shocked many when they opted not to buyout Brad Richards' lucrative, longterm contract after his declining performance in the 2012-13 season, particularly in the postseason. To Richards' credit, he had a bounce-back year this past season and helped take on a leadership role for the Blue Shirts after captain Ryan Callahan was traded. Unfortunately his recent playoff performance, only acquiring a single point in the Stanley Cup Final, is an indicator that his peak years are behind him. With 6 years and $27-million left on his contract, the Rangers, from a financial point of view, would be smart to use its remaining compliance buyout on Richards to open up cap space and fill the hole the 34-year-old center has created. Nevertheless, Richards could still be a leader for another team.
Where Richards could land: Since Richards would be starting from scratch as a free agent, he would have many options to choose from. More than likely he would have to settle for less pay than he is signed to right now, given his increasing age and fluctuating play. Depending on his ambition, teams like the Calgary Flames or Buffalo Sabres with large cap spaces could offer Richards the kind of deal he would typically seek, but if he is looking to make it back to where he is right now then he would have to take a pay cut. No teams yet have officially been connected to Richards if the Rangers do decide to cut ties with him.