Projected top pick Hughes: ‘You don’t dream of being No. 2’

Jack Hughes is ready for the spotlight.

The projected No. 1 pick in June's NHL Draft met with media at the scouting combine Friday, and while his draft position has been a virtual lock all year, it's top spot or bust in the mind of the young phenom.

"It would be unbelievable to be chosen No. 1," Hughes said, according to's Mike Morreale. "I mean, you always dream of being No. 1 ... you don't dream of being No. 2, No. 3, or No. 4 when you're a young kid. I want to be the first overall pick and I feel like that'll be a dream come true if it happened."

Hughes enjoyed a massive draft year, putting up 112 points (35 goals, 78 assists) in 50 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program. The 18-year-old center also represented the U.S. at the world juniors and world under-18 tournament, as well as at the IIHF World Championship alongside some of the NHL's biggest American stars.

Though Hughes has always been the biggest name in the 2019 draft class, Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko has done his best to generate debate around the top selection. Kakko set a Finnish league record for goals by a player aged 18 or younger and bested Hughes in the gold medal game at the world juniors before winning another title at the World Championship in May.

Whether that's enough to usurp Hughes in the top spot remains to be seen.

This year's draft begins Friday, June 21 in Vancouver with the New Jersey Devils owning the top overall pick.

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Report: Leafs’ Kapanen, Kadri, Brown drawing most interest in trade talks

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is a bound to be a busy man this offseason.

Following recent news that defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is on the trade block and rumors of trade talks between the Leafs and Los Angeles Kings involving winger Patrick Marleau, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports Toronto has more players potentially available this summer, some of whom are garnering significant interest.

"The guys the Toronto Maple Leafs are getting the most action on right now: Kasperi Kapanen, Nazem Kadri, and Connor Brown. Anything and everything outside of (the) untouchables will be considered," McKenzie said Friday on "Insider Trading."

"There are really only four untouchables on the Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, and as long as he signs, Mitch Marner," McKenzie explained. "The two that fall into the 'highly not likely to be traded' category: that would be William Nylander and goaltender Freddie Andersen. After that, it is wide open."

Dubas and the Maple Leafs are up tight against the salary cap this summer and need new contracts for Marner, Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson - all of whom are restricted free agents.

The club also has just five NHL defenseman, including Zaitsev, under contract for 2019-20. One of those defensemen, 22-year-old Travis Dermott, underwent shoulder surgery in early May and is expected to miss six months while recovering.

Kadri, Kapanen, and Brown would all fetch solid returns on the trade market, and a deal involving any of them could help ease the Leafs' cap constraints heading into next season.

Player (Position) GP P Cap hit Years remaining
Kadri (C) 73 44 $4.5M 3
Kapanen (RW) 78 44 RFA N/A
Brown (RW) 82 29 $2.1M 1

Toronto is currently projected to have $8.79 million in cap space for next season, according to Cap Friendly. The team can gain additional breathing room, if necessary, by stashing Nathan Horton and his $5.3-million cap hit on LTIR.

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Report: Pens ‘more than happy’ to keep Kessel if trade doesn’t pan out

It's no secret that the Pittsburgh Penguins have made an effort to move Phil Kessel, but a trade out of the Steel City doesn't seem as certain as it once did.

The Pens have let Kessel know that they're "more than happy" to keep him if a trade can't be worked out, The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun reports.

Kessel's name has been surfacing on the rumor mill since a reported rift between him and head coach Mike Sullivan made headlines last offseason. The Penguins tested the market for him before this year's trade deadline. He recently used his modified no-trade clause to nix a deal to the Minnesota Wild that would've sent Jason Zucker the other way.

The 31-year-old played an integral role in Pittsburgh's two Stanley Cup victories in 2016 and 2017. He followed up back-to-back stellar playoff performances with the most productive two-year stretch of his career, tallying 174 points in 164 games over the last two seasons.

Kessel has three years left on his contract at a $6.8-million cap hit.

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Blue Jackets’ Sedlak signs in KHL

Columbus Blue Jackets restricted free-agent forward Lukas Sedlak has signed a two-year contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL, his agent J.P. Barry told The Athletic's Aaron Portzline.

Sedlak spent the last three seasons with the Blue Jackets, serving primarily as the club's fourth-line center. In 162 career NHL contests - all with Columbus - he tallied 15 goals and 12 assists while averaging 9:24 per game.

The 26-year-old was a sixth-round pick by the Jackets in 2011 and was one of the team's many pending free agents.

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Report: Kings, Leafs have discussed potential Marleau trade

The Los Angeles Kings appear interested in adding another veteran to their squad.

Los Angeles has discussed a trade for winger Patrick Marleau with the Toronto Maple Leafs, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

Marleau is entering the final season of his three-year contract, which carries an average annual value of $6.25 million and includes a full no-movement clause.

The Kings have $11.73 million in projected cap space for next season and would need to free themselves from at least one contract to make a deal possible. They currently roster six players who are at least 31 years old and scheduled to make north of $5 million next season.

Marleau is still looking for his first Stanley Cup and the Kings represent an aging club that finished last in the Western Conference this past season.

The 39-year-old could reunite with a familiar face, though, as the Kings hired former San Jose Sharks bench boss Todd McLellan in April.

Marleau tallied 16 goals and 37 points for the Leafs this year, which represented his worst statistical output since his rookie campaign.

The Leafs have been active lately in exploring ways to improve their club, as they reportedly put defenseman Nikita Zaitsev on the trade block Thursday.

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Report: Jets shopping Trouba

Right-handed defensemen with size and offensive upside in their mid-20s are rarely made available for trade, but Jacob Trouba appears to be an exception.

The Winnipeg Jets have engaged in trade talks with multiple teams about the restricted free agent blue-liner, according to TSN's Frank Seravalli.

Trouba is coming off a breakout 50-point season in 2018-19. The 25-year-old logged nearly 23 minutes per game while racking up 171 blocked shots, 112 hits, and a career-high 48 takeaways.

Trouba's camp and the Jets have never seen eye to eye in contract negotiations, which could lead to the end of his tenure in Winnipeg.

After his entry-level contract expired prior to the 2016-17 campaign, Trouba didn't sign his next pact until over a month into the season, agreeing to a two-year bridge deal. Once that expired, he and the Jets needed arbitration to settle on a one-year, $5.5-million deal this past summer. The two sides were reportedly $3 million apart before the hearing.

The Jets hold a projected $25.4 million in cap space, but RFA forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are due for significant raises. Andrew Copp, Nathan Beaulieu, and Joe Morrow round out the team's list of RFAs. Winnipeg also faces a glut of pending UFAs, including forwards Brandon Tanev and Kevin Hayes, and defensemen Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot.

Dustin Byfuglien and Tucker Poolman are the Jets' only right-handed shooting defensemen under contract for next season.

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Kuznetsov cleared after NHL investigation into white powder video

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly released a statement on Friday regarding Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov after a video circulated online appearing to show the Russian beside two lines of cocaine.

Following the release of the video, Kuznetsov said he "never used drugs" and has no intention to "get into it." He also said the video was more than a year old and was taken after the Capitals' Stanley Cup victory in 2018.

On Friday, Kuznetsov apologized for his involvement in the video.

"While I have never taken illegal drugs in my life and career, I would like to publicly apologize to the Capitals, my teammates, our fans, and everyone else for putting myself in a bad situation," he said, according to the team. "This was a hard lesson for me to learn."

The Capitals also posted a statement on Friday accepting Kuznetsov's apology.

"In addition to doing our own due diligence, we met with Evgeny to discuss the video circulated on social media. While we are disappointed by his presence in the video, we accept his explanation and apology for putting himself in an unfortunate situation," the team said. "Evgeny has been a terrific player and an active member of our community, and we expect him to learn from this experience and uphold both the standards the organization has for him as well as his own."

Kuznetsov has been a key piece of the Capitals' core, recording 70-plus points and 50-plus assists in three of the last four campaigns.

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NWHL cancels expansion plans, open to creation of new league

The National Women's Hockey League is canceling its plans to add two Canadian expansion teams with a long-term goal of a sustainable league in mind.

"As we said in April, we secured the investment required to add at least two teams. However, to expand properly, as we did in Minnesota, time, cooperation, and preparation is required. We would love to have more teams in 2019-20 and will make it happen if there is a spirit of partnership from all sides. Unless there is a change of heart soon, we will revisit expansion for the 2020-21 season," the league said in a statement Thursday.

Just two days after the Canadian Women's Hockey League announced it was folding after a 12-year run, the NWHL said it was expected to add teams in Toronto and Montreal.

However, a lot has changed since.

Earlier this month, over 200 women's hockey players announced they will be boycotting professional hockey this season until a plan for a viable league is in place.

While there is uncertainty surrounding the rosters for the upcoming season, the NWHL is open to the creation of a new league.

"If any individuals or groups come forward and declare they are ready to start and invest in a new league where women can receive a substantial full-time salary and medical insurance, we would be ecstatic to have a conversation about a partnership or passing the torch."

Professional women's hockey players were making as little as $2,000 a season with no health benefits.

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