Jets can’t let Kane situation fester much longer

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Kevin Cheveldayoff is willing to consider trade offers for Evander Kane. The Winnipeg Jets’ general manager said so at the draft in Philadelphia.

“If there’s a [player on the Jets] that a team has an interest in, my phone is open for a phone call,” Cheveldayoff said in response to a question about Kane’s status with the club.

And after yesterday’s “so we’ll see what happens” remark from Kane himself, one wonders if a few GMs around the league might be taking advantage of that open-phone policy.

But if Kane does want out of Winnipeg — and he sure didn’t deny he does — Cheveldayoff will no doubt want to achieve a couple of things with any trade.

1. The 2014-15 Jets can’t get significantly worse. Winnipeg has already missed the playoffs in its first three seasons since moving from Atlanta, and the Central Division is already tough enough. Which is to say, if Kane is traded, a good NHL-ready player better be coming back in return. A package of picks and prospects isn’t going to cut it. Too much uncertainty there. And too much pressure on Cheveldayoff to get results. Now.

2. That NHL-ready player better have a reasonably long future in Winnipeg. Kane, 22, is signed through 2017-18, after which he can become an unrestricted free agent. Which is to say, if Kane is traded, it can’t be for a guy who could leave town in a year or two. Nor can it be for a player who’s going to come to town and pout, a la Jeff Carter in Columbus.

Adding to the challenge for Cheveldayoff is the fact Kane doesn’t have the greatest reputation. For all the undeniable talent the former fourth overall pick possesses, there are questions about his attitude, and about how he gets along with teammates and coaches.

Whatever happens, the Jets can’t let this situation fester (to borrow a phrase from a team that had its own unhappy player) much longer.

As Kane said yesterday, “there’s been speculation and rumors for the three years since” he got to Winnipeg.

And as Cheveldayoff said at the draft, “there’s been lots of different rumors out there.”

The solution? Either Kane is traded or, if it’s not too late, the two sides reconcile and tell the fans they’re committed to each other.

Because it can’t keep going like this.

Kesler makes Ducks better, but are they good enough?

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Ryan Kesler wants to win a Stanley Cup. And you can hardly blame him. Turning 30 this summer, the former Selke Trophy recipient has suffered some painful defeats in his career. He lost the 2010 Olympic gold medal-game, and he lost twice with a chance to win the Cup in 2011.

Which is why he agreed to be traded from Vancouver to Anaheim, a deal that’s being seen as a big win for Ducks general manager Bob Murray, who adds one of the premier two-way centers in the NHL to play behind Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf.

Having a pair of top centers is how teams win the Cup. The Kings have Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. The Bruins have Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. The Blackhawks have Jonathan Toews and, well, that’s why everyone’s wondering what the ‘Hawks will do with their vacant 2C spot. Jason Spezza? Paul Stastny? Pressure’s on, Stan Bowman.

Of course, there’s more to winning the Cup than having two top centers, and it’s more than fair to wonder if the Ducks — a team that’s won just a single postseason series in the last five years — really have what it takes.

Let’s start with the blue line, which even Murray admits is lacking that elite defenseman that almost always plays for the Cup winner.

“You watch the Kings, for example, and you watch how Drew Doughty has emerged as a superstar,” Murray said recently. “Do we have a defenseman who can be that way? When we won the Stanley Cup, we had [Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger]. That’s in the back of my mind all the time. Where is that guy, can you find that guy, and can you afford that guy?”

Maybe they already have that guy in 22-year-old Cam Fowler. But that’s a big maybe. Fowler’s good, but can he be Doughty good? Can he be Duncan Keith good? Zdeno Chara? Nicklas Lidstrom? Again, these are the guys that win Cups. They might even be the most important part of a championship team. You could make that argument.

Then there’s the Ducks’ goaltending situation. Jonas Hiller won’t be back, leaving the starter’s job to either John Gibson or Frederik Andersen. To be sure, goaltending could in fact turn out to be a real strength for Anaheim. But that’s not an experienced duo. It’s another big question mark. (Murray reportedly has no interest in Ryan Miller.)

Kesler gets the Ducks closer to winning it all. He gets himself closer. How close, exactly, we shall see.

Kings sign Marian Gaborik to seven-year contract

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After he played a key role in them winning the Stanley Cup, the Los Angeles Kings didn’t want to let Marian Gaborik slip through their fingers as an unrestricted free agent. They managed to avoid that fate by signing him to a seven-year contract.

He will earn a little more than $34 million and come with a cap hit just below $5 million annually, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos

When Gaborik joined the Kings, their ability to find the back of the net was a serious and ongoing concern, but he fit in almost instantly. He scored 14 goals and 22 points in 26 playoff games and provided the Kings with the flexibility to split up Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter, giving the team a two strong scoring lines. Los Angeles ended up averaging 3.38 goals per game in the playoffs compared to 2.42 in the regular season.

Gaborik’s offensive abilities were hardly a revelation as he has reached or surpassed the 30-goal mark seven times, but the 32-year-old also has a lengthy injury history. For that reason, signing him through his late 30s is a considerable risk for the Kings.

That being said, he’s accepting a significantly smaller average salary than he’s enjoyed in the past, which is critical as Los Angeles attempts to keep its championship roster intact without reaching the cap ceiling.

Update: His exact average annual salary will be $4.875 million, per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun

UFA of the Day: Paul Stastny

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Check PHT each weekday for the first four weeks of June for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Paul Stastny

Arguably the biggest impact player available (potentially) in unrestricted free agency. Stastny is only 28 years old — young, compared to most UFAs — and he’s one of the better two-way centers in the NHL.

In 2013-14, Stastny had 25 goals and 35 assists while playing out the last year of his five-year, $33 million contract with the Avalanche. If he stays in Colorado, it’s likely he’ll have to accept a hometown discount. Possibly he’d even have to take a pay cut, given his expiring cap hit was $6.6 million and Matt Duchene is signed through 2018-19 for a cap hit of $6 million.

It’s expected talks between Stastny and the Avs will start shortly.

“We believe Paul wants to stay as an Avalanche next year and we think there’s a good chance he can sign with us,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy said a while back, per the StarTribune. “How it happens, that will be up to [executive vice president] Joe [Sakic] and [Matt Keator, Stastny’s] agent to discuss. I think Paul has the Avs in his heart, he loves to be in this town and he loves these fans.”

The thing is, on the open market, Stastny wouldn’t be out of line to ask for $7 million-plus per season. Think that’s high?  Take a look — there are no UFA centers under the age of 30 that are of Stastny’s caliber. The closest is Mike Santorelli, who isn’t very close at all. And remember, there are teams with cap space this summer.

Where could he go?

Well, if the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t interested in Stastny, they should be. The Leafs haven’t had a true No. 1 center since Mats Sundin left.

The Anaheim Ducks should be interested. So should the St. Louis Blues. And the Dallas Stars. We’re not saying any of those destinations are likely, but Stanley Cup champions typically (not always) have two excellent centers. (Think Anze Kopitar/Jeff Carter this year, and Patrice Bergeron/David Krejci in Boston.) If the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in line for big new deals, we’d say they should be interested too.

Back to the Avs, who have another interesting situation with Ryan O’Reilly, who’s none too pleased with being taken to arbitration by the club. We suggested in January that they consider trading O’Reilly (the blue line could use some bolstering) and re-signing Stastny. And we stand by that, because losing Stastny for nothing would be a big blow to a team that’s finally back on the radar in Denver.

Gaborik trade paid off handsomely for Kings

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It seems like the team that makes the biggest splash during the trade deadline usually isn’t the one that ends up winning the Stanley Cup, but deadline day acquisitions can still be critical. After all, would the Kings have won it all this year if they didn’t acquire Marian Gaborik?

Los Angeles averaged 2.42 goals per game in the regular season and 3.38 in the playoffs with Gaborik being a big part of that transformation. He scored a league-leading 14 goals and 22 points in the postseason and contributed to Anze Kopitar’s equally impressive showing.

His presence also gave the Kings the flexibility to split up Jeff Carter and Kopitar. That move gave them two dangerous lines as Carter scored 10 goals and 25 points in the playoffs.

What makes that trade truly special though is that the Kings didn’t mortgage their future to make it as they gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a pair of second rounders and 26-year-old forward Matt Frattin.

The Kings have made some other solid acquisitions over the years, with forwards Carter and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Justin Williams being the most noteworthy additions, but Kings GM Dean Lombardi knows those kind of moves alone couldn’t hope to keep this team on top.

“The ability of this team to continue to grow isn’t going to from acquisitions. It’s going to be on the inside,” Lombardi told LA Kings Insider. “People overlook, I think a lot, how young Doughty was last time, Kopitar, Brown was still growing. Carter was just entering his prime. Jake Muzzin, Martinez, Clifford, Nolan, King – all these kids, you look at the age distribution chart on ‘em, there was tremendous upside here. Now, the trick for them and the coaches was to not let ‘em get complacent and keep pushing them to reach their potential.”

Bench boss Darryl Sutter has done a fine job of that so far, but every now and then he can certainly use a boost. Because sometimes trade deadline acquisitions do pay off.