NHL Rumours: Latest on Stamkos, Canucks, Okposo

Shawn McKenzie and John Shannon talk about who the front runners are to acquire Steven Stamkos.

Four more days until free agency, folks.

With the wooing of unrestricted free agents well underway, we check in Monday on the latest rumblings regarding free agents and prospective trade targets.

Exciting times, fellow hockey nerds!

Columbus trade of No. 3 pick ‘fell apart in the last second’

Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told Hockey Central at Noon Monday that a deal for the Blue Jackets to swap down from the No. 3 slot in the draft fell apart at the last minute.

Kekalainen said he did not want to trade so far down the ladder that he was unable to pick up centre/winger Pierre-Luc Dubois, the versatile player he had pegged as this draft’s third-best prospect.

“I’m a little bit harder probably on Finns because I want to make sure nationality has nothing to do with our draft,” said Kekalainen, who passed on countryman Jesse Puljujarvi. “I actually thought we had a deal done [to trade down], but then it fell apart in the last second.

“It was a small trade and small movement back that we thought we had the deal done, but it fell apart and that’s why we picked him at 3.”

Surely that means the near trade down scenario would’ve been with another team in the top five, as Dubois was top-five in most mock drafts. Edmonton? Vancouver?

The GM was fairly tight-lipped on why he traded Kerby Rychel to Toronto. Watch:

Sabres, Maple Leafs, Red Wings connect with Team Stamkos

“In a dark corner of the First Niagara Center during the latter rounds of Saturday’s NHL Draft,” the Toronto Star reports, Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and Don Meehan, the agent of Steven Stamkos, shook hands. Detroit GM/trade whisperer Ken Holland also had touched base with Meehan at the draft.

The big-fish-hunting Buffalo Sabres made first contact with Team Stamkos late Saturday, when GM Tim Murray introduced Meehan to club owner Terry Pegula.

“We talk a lot to Newport Sports,” Murray told the Buffalo News. In addition to Stamkos, Newport also reps Sabres centre Ryan O’Reilly.

“The next conversation I will have with them because we’re allowed to now is just to, I guess, ask if Steven is going to be available on July 1 and would he have an interest in Buffalo? I have to ask that question. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t.”

According to the News‘s Mike Harrington, a potential Sabres contract could be for seven years at $11 to $12 million per season.

Islanders letting them all walk?

According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the New York Islanders have offered Frans Nielsen an extension worth at least $5.5 million per season, but the 32-year-old forward will be able to earn at least $6 million per on a four-year (minimum) deal if he hits the open market Friday.

Brooks reports that the Isles aren’t optimistic about keeping Nielsen in the fold. New York already said goodbye to Kyle “Bidding War” Okposo and isn’t likely to keep fourth-liner Matt Martin either.

Then there is this nugget from Brooks: “One agent with a marquee stable of players has told Slap Shots that he would not recommend that his clients sign with the Islanders as a result of the bad ice conditions at Barclays during the playoffs that he deemed ‘dangerous.’ ” (That comment jives well with this ESPN report on no-trade clauses.)

So, this left-field theory has crept into the conversation: Could Garth Snow be clearing space for a Stamkos bid, then? A Tavares-Stamkos one-two punch would be dreamy in Brooklyn.

The Isles have a projected $15.4 million in cap space with 15 of 50 roster spots open for 2016-17.

Canucks gunning for a winger

Jim Benning has been rather forthright with his intent to land a scoring forward or two.

In addition to Stamkos (we presume), the Canucks have also touched based with UFAs Thomas Vanek, Loui Eriksson, Mikkel Boedker, Darren Helm and Andrew Ladd, according to News 1130 Sports.

There’s a connection with Helm here: The 29-year-old Red Wings centre played under Canucks coach Willie Desjardins when both were in Medicine Hat.

Parenteau might still sign with the Maple Leafs

As of Monday, the Maple Leafs are still a possible destination for UFA P.A. Parenteau, Sportsnet learned.

Toronto’s top scorer in 2015-16 would love to return as a Maple Leaf this fall.

Everyone loves Okposo

In addition to the Jets, Blues, Kings, Wild and Red Wings, Newsday‘s Arthur Staple has chucked Buffalo and Florida onto the list of teams interested in the point-producing UFA winger.

Dylan Larkin ask untrue?

Much has been made of the St. Louis Blues‘ high asking price for top-four defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk, a trade target with one foot out the door.

Shattenkirk’s agent, Jordan Neumann, told ESPN’s Craig Custance he was surprised his client wasn’t traded over the draft weekend:

St. Louis beat reporter Andy Strickland shot down a report that Blues GM Doug Armstrong asked for fastest skater Dylan Larkin from Detroit during Shattenkirk trade talks:

Hoffman a huge priority for Senators

Ottawa Senators newbie GM Pierre Dorion needs to concern himself with RFAs over UFAs.

He told the Ottawa Sun his focus is getting restricted free agent winger Mike Hoffman and RFA defenceman Cody Ceci under contract.

Both must be given qualifying offers by Monday at 5 p.m. ET.

Hoffman took a one-year deal in 2015-16 for $2 million and delivered 29 goals and 59 points. He’ll be gunning for a significant raise.

“The two biggest priorities is trying to get a deal with Mike Hoffman done and avoiding arbitration if we can, and the second thing is getting a deal done with Cody Ceci. Hopefully, we see that in the next few weeks with both of them,” Dorion said. “With Mike, it’s the middle to the end of the July, [depending on] the arbitration date with Cody.”

The Sun believes the team has discussed deals with Ceci that are either two years or six years.

And Hoffman?

“For us, to get it done — we’ve both agreed not doing it through the media is the best way,” Dorion said. “We both want to get a contract done, more than a year just to avoid arbitration, so that’s why we’re trying to work together.”

Gerbe to Switzerland?

Unrestricted free agent Nathan Gerbe, who put up just seven points for the Carolina Hurricanes last season, is reportedly looking to keep his pro career alive in Switzerland:

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