Rumblings: Blackhawks, Ducks leading the pack for Kesler; Gaborik, Kings deal close

New Canucks GM Jim Benning is keeping the price for Ryan Kesler very high. Ben Nelms/Getty Images

The Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks seemingly have broken from the pack and are the front-runners for Ryan Kesler, multiple sources have told ESPN.com.

Kesler's preference to land in either of those two cities stems in part from his desire to win a Stanley Cup; he also holds a no-trade clause, giving him the power to dictate to some degree his destination.

And he’s certainly a great fit for either club, with both teams wanting to upgrade their No. 2 center position.

The one thing Kesler can’t dictate, however, is forcing the Vancouver Canucks to trade him. Unless and until either Anaheim or Chicago presents a package that the Canucks believe is worthy, they won’t move him, one source said. These things can change with one single conversation, but as of Tuesday afternoon, no trade for Kesler was imminent.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are another team, a source said, that has expressed interest in Kesler. He has played some wing in his career, and riding shotgun with Sidney Crosby wouldn't be bad, either. But it's not clear whether Kesler would agree to go to Pittsburgh.

The Kesler situation greatly affects what the Ottawa Senators do with center Jason Spezza, who, like Kesler, has asked out. It feels almost as though the Senators have to wait to see if or where Kesler gets dealt before moving on to the next phase of trade talks on the Spezza front.

Interestingly, both the Canucks and Senators are staying at the same hotel in Philadelphia this week for the draft. Perhaps they can rent a suite together and perform a live auction.

Crosby, Babcock support Olympics return

While the NHL's involvement in future Olympics remains undecided, it's clear how two major voices feel about it.

Crosby and Mike Babcock would welcome further NHL participation.

"All the things that had to happen to make it work in Russia, it would be a similar case, maybe even more difficult with the next one, so we'll see," Crosby said Monday while in Vancouver accepting his Olympic championship ring. "But to represent your country and to have those opportunities, that never gets old, no matter what the situation is. As a player, you're always looking to those opportunities and you want to be a part of that. So we'll see what happens, but I would have no complaints [going to South Korea in 2018]."

Ditto, added Team Canada coach Babcock, a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

"To me, the Olympic Games are so special," the Red Wings coach said. "My mom never watched sports but she watched the Olympic Games. People that aren't interested in sports still follow the Olympics. I think it's the greatest opportunity, best on best, to sell sport in itself. The experience, just like Sid, for me has been absolutely fantastic, one I shared with my family in Vancouver and one I shared with the guys more so in Sochi. But it's something you want to be a part of and you want other people to be a part of. Whether that's through the TV or whether that's actually being there to experience it, to me it's a thrill of a lifetime."

Draft lottery update

When NHL general managers met in New York during the Stanley Cup finals, there wasn't consensus from the group to go ahead with a plan to change the draft-lottery format.

Some were for it; others -- most notably Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray -- were against changing it for 2015 for obvious reasons. It's the draft involving highly touted prospects Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.

Several GMs we spoke with left the meeting believing the matter was to be further debated, but that no changes were on the horizon for next year.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly plans to table a draft-lottery proposal Thursday at the board of governors’ meeting in New York for owners to look at.

If owners give it the go-ahead, the plan could be implemented next year. Interesting, to say the least.

Gaborik, Kings close to deal

The Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings and Marian Gaborik are closing in on a new contract, a source told ESPN.com Tuesday, although it is not a done deal. But the sides made important headway during the past three to four days.

Gaborik is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent July 1, but teams can start talking to him Wednesday. However, unless there's a last-minute hitch in the deal, it appears he's going to stay in L.A.

Another team could certainly jam things once the talking window opens; that's why it's no sure deal that Gaborik signs in L.A., but the sides are getting closer.