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Dreger: Nash headlines all pre-draft trade speculation

Darren Dreger
6/18/2012 6:22:34 PM
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The future of superstar forward Rick Nash headlines all pre-draft trade speculation.

The Columbus Blue Jackets know Nash would prefer a deal get done sooner rather than later, but if Zach Parise becomes a free agent, the Blue Jackets may have to wait beyond July 1 to get a true sense of what the trade market is willing to offer.

All seven Canadian NHL teams are hungry to make change, even if Nash's eye is focused south of the border with the New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks still considered his preferred destinations. However, Nash may have to soften and expand the list of teams he's willing to go to.

The Toronto Maple Leafs' needs - for starters - are significant.  An experienced goalie, a top centre and a tad more bottom-six grit and depth are among the items on the Leafs' shopping list.

Amid ample speculation swirling around defenceman Luke Schenn, the Leafs refutes that he's being shopped and management says it isn't willing to part with Jake Gardiner.  But teams are aware they do have extra "D" for sale.

The Montreal Canadiens want to get bigger and stronger and are hoping to add a left winger to play with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. The Habs will also hunt for a Top 4 defenceman to compliment PK Subban, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges. The Canadiens also remain open-minded about trading the third overall pick, but it's unlikely they'll forfeit a chance to draft a Top 10 player.

The Ottawa Senators are a strict budget team, but they do have young assets to move, so if Sens owner Eugene Melnyk can be convinced to take on the money, it's possible they could take a run at Rick Nash.

It's a longshot, but not out of the question.

The Senators are more apt to move a goalie and will listen to offers on either Robin Lehner or Ben Bishop with draft picks as the likely return.

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is focused on his collection of pending restricted and unrestricted free agents. Of note, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is considering interest from the KHL.  Unless the soon-to-be restricted free agent gets a multi-year term at $4 million per year (or higher), there's a strong possibility Pavelec bolts for Russia.

Star forward Evander Kane is also scheduled to become a restricted free agent. Kane's future in Winnipeg is being openly questioned and some NHL teams believe he's in play. But both the Jets and Kane's representatives say he has not asked for a trade and there have been no trade discussions with teams who may have interest.

The Western Canadian teams will draw a ton of interest this week for different reasons.

All eyes are on the Edmonton Oilers and their first pick overall, while the speculation that continues to build in Vancouver in anticipation of a Roberto Luongo trade is heading towards a frenzy.

The Canucks, however, are still in listening mode - gathering information and say there's a good chance Luongo doesn't get moved this weekend.  And regardless of Luongo's view of the situation, Vancouver remains very high on him as a star goalie and team leader.

As for rumblings of teams positioning to sign Cory Schneider to an offer sheet, Canucks GM Mike Gillis says "don't bother," The Canucks sit in a very good financial position and will match any rival hoping to poach Schneider. Gillis is less enthusiastic about the potential for trades this week and believes a more solid trade market will form later in the summer.

The Oilers remain focused on bolstering their blue line and would like to add two young, Top 4 defencemen this offseason. And the first pick overall is only in play for those teams willing to part with a top blueliner.

If the Nashville Predators re-sign Ryan Suter, can they afford to keep Suter, Shea Weber and Ryan Ellis long term? The Oilers would have keen interest in Ellis or Weber and will also be among the most aggressive clubs in pursuit of soon-to-be college free agent Justin Schultz.

Schultz will have multiple offers and will be able to choose where he intends to make his debut. However, Edmonton makes sense given the opportunity to grow with a talented young core while playing big minutes and in all key offensive situations.

The Oilers are also looking for help in goal, though with Nikolai Khabibulin under contract for another year, the need isn't as pressing as it is on defense.

The Calgary Flames have a new coaching staff and a willingness to consider all trade scenarios not including Jarome Iginla or Miikka Kiprusoff.

Like most teams, the Flames are looking for a Top 6 forward - ideally, a centre.  Mikael Backlund and Jay Bouwmeester are among those the Flames would trade. But with two years remaining at a whopping $6.7 million per season, Bouwmeester is going to be a tough sell.

If the Flames intend to go the distance with experience, perhaps Jaromir Jagr will be of interest to play alongside fellow countryman Roman Cervenka.

Hey, in the offseason - anything is possible.

Darren Dreger

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