NHL trade chatter: Latest on Kessel, O’Reilly

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel is a hot name heading into draft weekend.

Trade talk is expected to pick up with the 2015 NHL Draft just one week away.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman appeared on Dean Blundell & Co to provide the latest news and nuggets on Friday morning.

What’s up with O’Reilly?

Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O’Reilly is expected to be one of the hottest names heading into draft weekend.

O’Reilly carries a salary cap hit of $6 million for the final year of his contract and the Avalanche, despite being high on the player, are having difficulty coming to terms on an extension. The club acknowledged in a conference call earlier in the week that they would prefer if the talks did not become a distraction, so a trade could be the next step.

“They’re hoping to sign him but they might not be able to and they likely can’t,” Friedman said on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “So they’re listening hard and the (Toronto) Maple Leafs would likely be interested.”

O’Reilly’s future with the Avalanche has been in question almost constantly since he signed a two-year, $10 million offer sheet with the Calgary Flames in 2013.

Will Kessel get moved?

The Maple Leafs are one of the teams to watch this week because they haven’t been shy to admit a willingness to make big changes.

Core players such as Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf are expected to be in play, but Toronto is in a bit of a difficult spot. According to Friedman, the team is concerned with improving its bloated salary cap situation but that might limit what kind of contracts they are willing to take on in return for a player with a large salary cap ($8 million) hit such as Kessel.

“They’re willing to take on salary providing you make it worth their while,” he said.

“They’re not going to add for the sake of getting a piece. They want some flexibility moving into the future. They are willing to do some but not at the expense of limiting what they can do in the future.”

That complicates the Kessel trade discussions a bit, but Friedman did say that “teams are starting to move forward” in those negotiations.

One week out from Round 1 of the NHL Entry Draft, there’s plenty of talking still to be done – and lots of potentially big moves to be made.

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