TSN Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun have the latest on Ryan Kesler's situation in Vancouver, the coaching vacancies around the league, if the first overall pick will move, and more.
How does Jim Benning's selection as GM in Vancouver, and who he selects as head coach, affect the Ryan Kesler situation?
Darren Dreger: Ryan Kesler hasn't changed his mind. He wants a fresh start and to move on from Vancouver; he met with Benning earlier this week to talk about that. It's believed that Kesler still has six teams on his list that he's willing to be traded to. And we think that Philadelphia and Anaheim are among those.
Pierre LeBrun: The asking price remains high, as it should for a guy that only has a $5 million cap hit for two more years. The Canucks don't just want futures here, they want a player that can help them now, preferably a centre.
Bob McKenzie: With Kesler on the marketplace right now, that's bad news for the Ottawa Senators, who have been trying to trade Jason Spezza, preferably before the draft. With Kesler out there, that's a centre that most teams will target before they go after Spezza.
LeBrun: It might get even more interesting if Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau are on the market. Right now that's not the case but the Sharks have made it known they're rebuilding. What does that mean for a veteran like Thornton – does he want to be on a rebuilding team? That remains to be seen.
Why Jim Rutherford in Pittsburgh? And who might he hire to replace the fired Dan Bylsma?
McKenzie: They like Rutherford's experience and they also like the fact that at this point in his career Rutherford is happy to take a 2-3 year transition phase and be able to turn the reigns over to an assistant like Jason Botterill, Bill Guerin or Tom Fitzgerald.
In terms of who the coach will be, I'll say this: if Paul Maurice hadn't signed on long-term with the Winnipeg Jets, those two – the Lone Ranger and Tonto – might have ridden again, with Rutherford obviously having an affinity for Maurice. I think whoever he gets, it has got to be a guy who has some cache, who's got a name, and who's been a head coach. Because when that guy walks into that dressing room, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have got to sit up and take notice.
Give me an update on the other three coaching vacancies.
Dreger: Dale Tallon has interviewed as many as 10 candidates for the vacancy in Florida. He's hoping to get the list down to 5-6 as early as next week and start the process of second interviews.
LeBrun: With Rutherford's old team in Carolina, Ron Francis we're told has interviewed close to 10 candidates and he's not done. He wants a crack at Ulf Samuelsson, his old teammate, on the New York Rangers' staff. He has to wait for the Stanley Cup Final to end. Bill Peters is another candidate; he's interviewed Jacques Martin; and maybe John Stevens from the Los Angeles Kings is in the mix as well.
McKenzie: There's been no news coming out of Vancouver on the coaching front for an obvious reason. We believe the top candidates are still coaching and not available to be interviewed. That'd be Stevens with the Kings, and Willie Desjardins, who's currently coaching in the American Hockey League Championship and is another strong candidate in Vancouver.
The first overall draft pick has only been traded four times. Will it be a fifth this year?
Dreger: It's definitely in play and I know the Panthers have at least one solid offer, but the expectation is things will heat up in the days ahead.
Is Martin Brodeur prepared to leave New Jersey?
LeBrun: I spoke to Brodeur today and he said mentally he's ready to leave New Jersey. He hasn't totally closed the door on the Devils – he says “I'll be a Devil for life” – but he will go to July 1 and see if there's a fit. He's ready to play one more year and he's ready to play in another uniform.
McKenzie: And there's another free agent we should keep our eye on who most people haven't heard of: a 22-year-old Czech by the name of Jiri Sekac. He went through the NHL Drafts and never got picked up. He was once cut by the Peterborough Petes but he had a strong year in the KHL playing for the Prague team. Right now he has more than a dozen firm offers on a max entry-level deal for two years. He's expected over the next couple of days to make up his mind as to which team. This is a guy who is in great demand. He's a 6'2, 190 pound left winger who many believe is ready to step in NHL-ready.