Trade market heats up as draft nears

The addition of Jason Spezza or Ryan Kesler would be a big boost for Anaheim. Will a trade happen? Getty Images

If things go quiet on the negotiating front for teams trying to sign their own free agents, it’s understandable. Wednesday begins the interview period in which teams can begin legally contacting the free agents of other teams. If you’re a potential free agent and you’ve made it this far, it definitely makes sense to see what else is out there on Wednesday.

After the confusion last season of what was allowed and not allowed during the interview period, there appears to be more clarity this year. The league sent out a memo explaining that the parameters of a potential deal could be discussed, although July 1 remains the day new contracts can be signed. One team jokingly calls the process legal tampering.

An agent deadpanned, “What can you do, get to third but not go all the way?”

In theory, teams could have players visit as some free agents did last year, most notably Nathan Horton and his visit to Columbus. But opening the interview window the week of the draft means there might not be any team executives still behind in their home cities as the league descends on Philadelphia for the draft.

For one prominent agent, that’s a point of frustration.

“If you have a team that said, ‘Hey, we want to show you our city, our arena, training facility and schools,' all that stuff -- it’s hard to do when everybody involved in the sales process is in Philadelphia,” he said. “To me the whole thing is screwed up... I don’t think right now it’s going to work quite the way we had hoped it would. I guess it’s better than nothing.”

In theory, it would help cut down on the tampering, although even that may be wishful thinking.

“The tampering out there is ridiculous,” said one GM.

Another executive didn’t feel quite as strongly, but suspected that it’s a growing problem.

“I don’t know if it’s a function of this free-agent market being so thin and everybody trying to get out ahead of it,” he said.

From a general manager and fan perspective, opening up conversations with free agents and teams before the draft makes the coming week all the more interesting. If teams get a definite answer that they will or won’t be able to sign a free agent, it’ll impact trade talks at a draft that will be filled with them. Those trade talks have already started, and will get more intense as teams arrive in Philadelphia over the next couple of days.

“I think it’s going to be a busy week,” said one NHL source.

July 1 is obviously the big day for NHL free agents, but here are some notes on hot topics that are only going to heat up as the draft gets closer:

Waiting on Spezza, Kesler

There’s a lot of trade chatter out there, but some trades might be on hold until there’s resolution on the Ryan Kesler and Jason Spezza fronts.

“There are teams we haven’t talked to within the last three weeks because we think they’re waiting on those two,” said one team executive.

The Anaheim Ducks may be the best example of a team that will put all other plans on hold until the center situation is settled. Kesler and Spezza are ideal for the Ducks, who are eager to add a No. 2 center and are believed to have four targets on their center wish list.