VANCOUVER -- The tire kicking has begun as NHL teams prepare for Saturday's draft at GM Place.
Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero told the Sun yesterday he's willing to listen to offers for the club's No. 2 overall selection in the draft.
While Shero isn't shopping the pick behind the St. Louis Blues (who will draft first), he admitted he's had conversations with a couple of teams about making a deal.
"You know what happens with these things, it's still a little early. The draft isn't until Saturday," said Shero. "Would I be willing to trade the pick? Sure, I'd be willing to trade the pick, but at the end of the day I'm not looking for that."
Sources say Shero has started positioning to make a deal. The Penguins already have rookie-of-the-year candidate Sidney Crosby in the lineup and they expect to sign Russian Evgeny Malkin (their top pick in 2004) this summer.
Whispers in league circles suggest Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford would deal defence prospect Jack Johnson to the Penguins for the No. 2 choice. Then the 'Canes would select Peterborough Petes centre Jordan Staal, the brother of Hurricanes' Eric Staal.
Sources say the 'Canes aren't happy with Johnson. They tried to entice him to leave school and join them for the run to the Stanley Cup, but Johnson turned down the deal to play another year of college hockey.
"This could be a deal that makes everybody happy," said a league executive last night.
And the talk is the Boston Bruins, who pick fifth, may deal their choice for immediate help.
The Blues are badly in need of goaltending and will get plenty of calls from teams trying to pry the No. 1 selection away. Talk is Anaheim GM Brian Burke could offer J.S. Giguere, while the Sharks are going to try to shed Evgeny Nabokov and his big salary this summer. Neither is expected to be enough to entice Blues GM Larry Pleau to move the pick.
"There's been a lot more chatter this year than there has been in the past," said an executive from an Eastern Conference team. "Teams have unrestricted free agents to sign and they're trying to figure out what they're going to do with the money they have to spend."