If the Sharks are inclined to move Thornton, he must sign off on the destination. Toronto has been rumoured as a possible landing place, though why the Maple Leafs would want to go older at this stage of their development is a mystery. You have the sense that Maple Leafs GM David Nonis would happily move two of his youngsters, Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner, in the right deal, but is adding Thornton the right move? Maybe not.
If Thornton determines the Sharks want him out, then Anaheim – straight down the coast, still in California, where he really enjoys the life – might be the most palatable destination.
But logically, that’s a harder deal for the Ducks to make – adding a pricey older player from a divisional rival, that hasn’t won enough in the playoffs to suit his current employer.
One way or another though, Anaheim figures to make a splash this summer – equipped with the will to make changes, and enough quality prospects in the pipeline to make a blockbuster happen.
RICHARDS VERSUS RICHARDS: If there was a common thread anywhere on media day linking the two participating teams at the Stanley Cup final, it was probably the discussion over Mike vs. Brad Richards (no relation, other than the fact that both are candidates for compliance buyouts once the Stanley Cup playoffs end).
The Kings have had a funny time of it in their 2012 and 2014 runs to the final. In 2012, they faced the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk, a player they’d bid on in the summer of 2010, but failed to sign. It was the same the following July.
On the opening day of free agency, TSN famously showed a shot of Kings’ president Tim Leiweke, trying to get in the doors of the Newport Sports so they could present their contract offer for Richards’s services face-to-face, in the hopes that would enhance their chances.
In the end, Richards opted to go with the Rangers instead. Eventually, the money that otherwise would have been allocated to Kovalchuk and Brad Richards was handed to Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. What is it they say? Sometimes, the best moves are the ones that don’t pan out.
Rangers’ general manager Glen Sather declined to speculate about Brad Richards’s future at his press conference last week, but if they were absolutely certain they were retaining him, it would have been a simple matter to say that.
Instead, Sather hedged – and the reason likely is that even if Richards has had a major bounce back season in New York, there is still too much money and term left on that nine-year, $60-million contract to keep him around. Financially, it doesn’t make any sense. Even if the first $31-million have already been paid out, the average annualized value of the deal is $6.667-million for another six years – just not cost effective under the new collective bargaining agreement.
When asked about it last week, Richards said he was putting the future on hold so he could concentrate on the task at hand, and helping the Rangers win the Stanley Cup. In the absence of the traded Ryan Callahan, he is acting as the de facto captain.
“It's not the right time to even think about it,” said Richards. “It would hurt my game and it would hurt the team if I was worrying about it so I haven't really thought about it."
In the case of Mike Richards, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi did a good job managing his salary cap again this year, eventually losing enough players off his roster – Daniel Carcillo, Ben Scrivens and Matt Frattin were traded; Keaton Ellerby waived; and Colin Fraser demoted – to make the dollars work. It was a tightrope walk – and it only worked because the Columbus Blue Jackets absorbed half of Marian Gaborik’s prorated $7.5-million salary at the trading deadline, but this is way of the NHL world in 2014.