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July 3, 2017 | 10:45am ET
Trade winds blow as summer kicks in

TORONTO, ON -- The majority of this off-season's top free agent class has found a new home and as we wait on the likes of Alexander Radulov, Thomas Vanek, Andrei Markov and legend Jaromir Jagr, teams have started to explore their options on the trade front.

Matt Duchene remains a popular name out there, but Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic is singing the same song. We may not fully understand the lyrics, but he's still singing 'em.

The Avs want a young NHL-ready/proven defenseman, a top defensive prospect and another high-end asset for Duchene. The price hasn't really changed, and while we scratch our heads over offers that have come and gone -- Travis Hamonic and a first-round pick wasn't good enough -- Sakic sits back and waits to collect.

Duchene ties the knot this Saturday and what better wedding gift than an end to this unnecessarily overly-dramatic situation? Talks have picked up in the last 48-to-72 hours, or at least that's the perception, and multiple teams are believed to be in the mix.

It's been well documented, mainly by Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, the Blue Jackets are hot for Duchene. Defensemen Ryan Murray and Gabriel Carlsson are two names that pop up in trade talks, and it's possible they're packaged together in a deal for Duchene.

The Boston Bruins re-entered the equation recently, while the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators are still believed to be in the mix. There's been chatter over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks poking around again, but I'm sure a few more teams have picked up the phone and dialed Burnaby Joe.

Away from the Duchene chatter, the Los Angeles Kings are an interesting team to keep an eye on. They went hard after Joe Thornton and Justin Williams, but clearly fell short. While adding Mike Cammalleri to a bargain of a deal is a risk they were most certainly willing to take, they want to add more.

Kings GM Rob Blake was fishing for a top-line winger around the NHL Draft and will certainly poke around to see what's available now that July 1 is behind us. Buffalo's Evander Kane is a Plan G, but the price has to drop for the Kings to truly consider him an options.

The Kings would love to rid themselves of Marian Gaborik and his contract. The 35-year-old has four-years left at an annual salary cap hit of $4.875 million. They've reached out to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Carolina Hurricanes and even the Ottawa Senators (for a swap involving Dion Phaneuf), but so far nothing's materialized. Former captain Dustin Brown seems safe, for now.

In San Jose, Sharks GM Doug Wilson told the media during last night's conference call to welcome back Thornton on a one-year, $8 million contract that they plan on giving their younger players an opportunity to spread their wings. Funny what a few hours will do.

The Sharks were involved in trade discussions and had recently reached out to a few teams. Whether they inch closer to an agreement is another story, but Wilson had been exploring the market and if he can find a cheap replacement for Patrick Marleau, or provide his club with more depth, he'll probably pull the trigger.

Shifting to Marleau's new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been working the phone lines for weeks. The addition of Marleau tentatively puts them over the cap, but with the dead-weight contracts of Joffrey Lupul and Nathan Horton eating up $10.55 million of cap space that can be alleviated once they're put on LTIR, Toronto's in good shape.

The signing of Marleau is a bold and good move for a team filled with youth. He's got quite a bit left in the tank and I can see him playing beyond his new three-year deal. But the way the Leafs look right now isn't likely to be how they look on Oct. 4 when they open up the season.

Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello, while signing veteran Ron Hainsey and adding him to the blueline, is still trying to add a top-pair defenseman. Toronto's been speaking with the Avalanche about blueliner Tyson Barrie. I'm not sure if moving Barrie depends on the Avs shipping out Duchene in a separate move, but add the Leafs to the list of teams that would take on the 25-year-old rearguard.

Barrie has three-years left on his deal that comes with a $5.5 million salary cap hit. If they Leafs were to acquire him, they'd undoubtedly need to send some salary the other way.

Tyler Bozak, not James van Riemsdyk, may be the odd-man out in Leafs Nation. The 31-year-old is in the final year of his contract, which comes with a 12-team trade list. While not confirmed, I believe Colorado is on on that list. Bozak comes with a $4.2 million cap hit, and while it may make sense, mathematically, the Avs would need significantly more. Young forwards Connor Brown, Josh Leivo, Frederik Gauthier and Kasperi Kapanen, and blueliner Connor Carrick may be a few players the Avs are eyeing.

As for JVR, do you really expect a team with a young, top-four defenseman with term on his contract to be swapped out for a player in the final year of his deal who can hit the open market as a UFA next July? Stop being silly. The Leafs like JVR and will try to keep him, even with big contracts on the horizon for Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

There are certainly more teams dangling the carrot and even more trying to find some answers. For example:

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins want a third-line center.
  • The Montreal Canadiens, if they fail to re-sign Radulov, will be on the lookout for another scorer -- and their hunt for a top-two center continues.
  • The Washington Capitals, having already traded Marcus Johansson to New Jersey for a pair of draft picks, may still need to move out another contract to ice a full roster.
  • The Bruins, if they somehow win the Duchene sweepstakes or bring in another top player, are likely to move out a bigger contract either in that move or another.
  • Vegas still has at least one defenseman to trade and they'd like some more offense.
  • The Red Wings have been exploring help up front and moving out a defenseman.
  • Buffalo will continue to explore the defensive market.

While there's -- to quote Jumbo Joe -- "a shit ton" of trade talk swirling around, General Managers were traveling all throughout Sunday and some plan on taking a bit of a breather over these next few days. If we don't see too much activity, or any, these next few days, that simply means everyone's getting some much-needed time to themselves.

But if the flood-gates open, watch out.

Meanwhile...

When I first reported on Twitter on June 23 the players haven't been paid yet for their participation in the World Cup of Hockey or the All-Star Game, it created a bit of a stir. It sounded like the NHL wanted that kept under wraps. But this matter has caused a lot of animosity within the NHLPA, as it has now been well documented.

It's the summer now, but the NHLPA has their summer meeting set in Toronto for July 12 and expect this to be a major point of discussion. There are a lot of "why's" being asked -- as in, "why haven't we been paid" -- and they need to be addressed.

The World Cup was an NHL/NHLPA joint venture, at least that's how it came across publicly, but the All-Star Game is a League-run event. It's already been a sticky issue. If the players don't hear what they want to hear in a couple of weeks, this stickiness of the matter will only get worse.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.

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