Rumblings: Latest on Kesler, Vanek, Spezza

LOS ANGELES -- The latest scuttlebutt on who's going where and why as another big season of free agency approaches:

Kesler-Spezza-Thornton Update

It has the potential to be quite the offseason when it comes to high-profile centers changing teams.

We always say top centers don’t grow on trees and are hard to come by; well, there are at least two on the market in Ryan Kesler and Jason Spezza and it remains to be seen how it plays out on the Joe Thornton front.

First, in Vancouver, where the Canucks went a fair ways down the road in trade talks involving Kesler before the March 5 trade deadline, in particular with the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins, before deciding the offers weren’t good enough and pulling him back.

The question is, what’s the deal with him now given the new management in place in Vancouver?

Sources said new Canucks GM Jim Benning has already taken calls from teams on Kesler, if for no other reason than they’re wondering if he’s still available or not.

He is, but the price remains high.

Kesler has two more years on his deal at a reasonable $5 million cap hit and will be a hot commodity again if Vancouver steps up trade efforts.

My sense is that the Canucks, in any package, would want both an asset who can help them right now (preferably a center) plus future assets. And, yes, I think Kesler still wants out of Vancouver. TSN colleague Darren Dreger reported Friday that it's believed Kesler has a list of six teams he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to.

Spezza, with a year left on his deal, indicated to Senators management that he would welcome a change if a deal that makes sense comes Ottawa’s way. I suspect talks will heat up on that front closer to the draft later this month.

And, in San Jose, the Sharks have indicated they are entering a rebuilding mode. What does that mean for Joe Thornton, who signed a three-year extension earlier this season? Does he want to be around for a rebuild? Either way, Thornton holds all the cards with a no-movement clause. Same goes for Patrick Marleau, for that matter.

Hawks Talks Update

Agent Pat Brisson has had preliminary discussions with Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman regarding new deals for stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, although the meaty stuff still has yet to happen.

"I have spoken with Stan a few times already, we’ve obviously talked about extending both players," Brisson told ESPN.com Friday. "We’re working to get something done by July 1, if possible."

Both stars are a year away from unrestricted free agency. Under the terms of the CBA, players can sign extensions one year out as of July 1.

They’ve each got one more year at $6.3 million per season and obviously will be getting lucrative raises in their new deals.

Callanan-Vanek-Gionta Update

Veteran agent Steve Bartlett will be a busy man over the next few weeks with pending UFAs Ryan Callahan, Thomas Vanek and Brian Gionta, among others, to deal with.

On Callahan, Bartlett said Friday that talks remain ongoing with the Tampa Bay Lightning regarding the possibility of a new deal.

"Talks are well-intentioned by both parties, so we’ll see if we can get something done or not. But I can’t handicap at this point," Bartlett told ESPN.com.

Vanek, as has been the case since the beginning, remains slated to hit free agency July 1.

"I don’t think anything has changed there," said Bartlett.

As for the Habs captain, Gionta, there will be talks with Montreal.

"The team has reached out and said they’d definitely want Brian back," said Bartlett. "It’s a matter of whether the role for the player and the dollars are still a match. We’ll have those discussions with Montreal between now and July 1."

The Latest In Carolina

I think had Jim Rutherford stayed on as GM in Carolina, he would have entertained offers for captain Eric Staal. That doesn’t mean he would have moved him, but I think he would have listened rather intently.

I don’t get the sense that’s the case with new Hurricanes GM Ron Francis. What I’m hearing from talking to other teams is that Francis has not put Staal out there whatsoever.

On the coaching front, Francis has been busy, according to sources, already interviewing about half a dozen candidates, and that number might get all the way up to 10 before he’s done. The idea is to get someone in place before the draft.

Jacques Martin is among those who has interviewed with Carolina, and we’re hearing Francis will want to speak with New York Rangers assistant Ulf Samuelsson (a former teammate) after New York’s season is over.