Centre of the Hockey Universe



I can’t use “Centre of Attention” because I used it earlier this season when talking about how Phil Kessel and Alex Ovechkin were actually far less valuable than anyone will admit….so anyway, what the heck is going on?!  Centre has become THE position in the NHL.  It is no coincidence that the Kings have won 2 of the last 3 Cups and are the best team down the middle in the league.


But now we have a plethora of high end pivots who could be, in most of these cases WILL be, on the move in the next month.  Ryan Kesler, Joe Thornton, and Jason Spezza will likely be dealt, I don’t think anyone believes otherwise.  Then you have Eric Staal in Carolina who COULD be moved.  Darren Dreger reported this back in March and it didn’t get near as much attention as I believed it would.  But the Canes are looking to dump salary and if they aren’t looking to win anytime soon then why would he or his brother Jordan want to stay on a loser despite the chance to play with each other?


I will ignore Jordan Staal for this piece, but I will add in Ryan O’Reilly as a 5th guy because according to Bob MacKenzie on I believe Sunday, the O’Reilly situation has got cloudy in Denver yet again with the Avs taking him to arbitration and so teams are paying CLOSE attention to see if things will implode between the 2 sides.


So we have 5 high end centres (and yes, O’Reilly will be a centre again).  One of my favorite things to do is to play GM on here.  So I’m going to put on my GM cap yet again and get these guys dealt!  I’ll kick it off with Jason Spezza.


To Ottawa: Luca Sbisa, Stefan Noesen, and the 24th overall pick


To Anaheim: Jason Spezza


This wouldn’t look too good on Bryan Murray.  A year after the Bobby Ryan swap, it is essentially the same trade coming back to the Sens for Spezza, and I don’t have them getting their own 1st back either.  But Spezza won’t get a big return.  He has only a year left on his deal, a 10 team NTC, and the combination of him asking for a trade and the Sens not wanting to deal him within the East leaves their options limited.  But at least you get a young top 4 D-man, reacquire a kid you drafted in Noesen, and in the end will have a 1st round pick in this draft.


The Ducks have been desperate to land an elite 2nd line center to play behind Getzlaf for a long time now, and I fully expect them to land one of Spezza, Kesler or Staal this summer.


To Philadelphia: Ryan Kesler


To Vancouver: Braydon Schenn, Scott Laughton, and the 17th overall pick


This is just something Philly will do.  I just know it.  This would be as dumb as sh*t if Philly did this, and they absolutely will.  There is 100% zero need for the Flyers to go after a centre.  They’re real deep and strong down the middle with Giroux, Couturier and Schenn…..just like they were last year when they signed Vinny Lecavalier.  OOPS!!!


You can love Kesler or you can hate him like most do, but the guy is going to fetch Jim Benning and Trevor Linden a great return.  2 years left on a sweetheart contract for an elite 2nd line centre is impossible to find.  Of course if you already have that guy no names mentioned Paul, Ron, Bob, and Ed….you don’t need to go get that guy, ESPECIALLY when you have a terrible blueline.


To Florida: Joe Thornton


To San Jose: Ian McCoshen and Quinton Howden


I have a lot of reasons for this being a great fit.


1. Thornton has a NTC and I can’t see him wanting to go to a spot where he’ll face a lot of pressure

2. The Panthers have made no secret about wanting to improve in a hurry.  Their new owners aren’t going to be patient, nor should they be in an awful market like that.

3. Even though the Panthers are a losing organization they now have Luongo who is great friends with Thornton and could help recruit the big man.


I don’t expect the Sharks to get a big return on Thornton because that is a big ticket for a guy who is on the back 9 of his career.  The big thing is to simply get him off the books and change the culture in that room.  Howden is a former 1st round pick who still hasn’t broke through to the next level, and McCoshen is coming off a great season at BC who the Panthers got at 31 in last year’s draft, but my thought is that should they stay at 1 and pick Ekblad they then can afford to part with a young D.


To Nashville…yes, Nashville: Eric Staal


To Carolina: Colin Wilson, Michael Del Zotto, Austin Watson, and the 11th overall pick


Before you call me nuts…the Preds have some money.  I doubt they’ll be a cap team, but they have some money.  They can afford to bring in a big ticket guy and they’ve been DESPERATE for a 1st line center.  Other than a brief Peter Forsberg sighting in 2007, this franchise has never seen a 1st line center.  Enter, Eric Staal.  So why would Staal waive his NTC for the Preds?  His former coach is now the bench boss in Nashville in Peter Laviolette.  Also he is good buddies with Shea Weber.  With Staal in the fold, the Preds could become a playoff team again next season.


As for the Canes, this would give them a lot of what they need.  2 young roster players, a good prospect, and a pretty high draft pick.  But more importantly, A LOT of salary relief.


Would I bet on Staal waiving his NTC to go to Nashville?  No I doubt he would because they’ve never really proven they’ll spend the money.  Sure David Poile tells everyone how they have the money, and it’s true they do!  But they’ve never spent it, and until they really spend it players don’t buy that you will.  But as I said, Laviolette would be appealing for Staal, as would Weber, and let’s not forget some great young pieces like Seth Jones, Roman Josi, and Filip Forsberg.


To Pittsburgh: Ryan O’Reilly


To Colorado: Kris Letang


A good old 1 for 1.  Fits for both teams.  I know there has been talk of the Pens shedding Letang to re-sign Niskanen, but the fact of the matter is that who knows what new GM Jim Rutherford is thinking about doing with this roster?  But my thought process here is that the Pens can do this, and next season they’ll have Derrick Pouliot stepping into the lineup, not to mention have some money saved to spend in free agency.


O’Reilly would only be the 3rd line center for the Pens, so why would they want him?  Well, they had success with 3 big time centers before when Jordan Staal was there.  Also, Jim Rutherford is a guy who seems to believe he can win with garbage on his blueline.


As for the Avs, while Letang isn’t exactly what they need, we all saw how effective they were with Tyson Barrie on the ice late in the season.  Well Letang plays that same game and I think he would fit great with the Avs.


Look, are these deals I’m expecting?  Not really.  Kesler, Spezza and should Eric Staal be willing to waive, they will have the same suitors.  Anaheim, St.Louis, possibly Chicago, Nashville and then teams who have no shot at these guys like Montreal, Edmonton, Toronto, and Winnipeg.


This is more so just an idea of what to expect in terms of what you can expect these guys to fetch in a trade.  And like I said off the top, I love playing GM.  All these guys being available should make for an interesting summer, but then again we expect a ton of trades every summer in the NHL.  Let’s be honest, there are far too many GM’s who lack balls for a lot of trades to happen so I’ll believe it when I see it.


Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

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