We all know that the marriage of Ryan Kesler and the Vancouver Canucks could come to an end very soon. It was suggested leading up to the trade deadline this past season that the ten-year NHL veteran had asked for a trade out of Vancouver. We can speculate for many reasons why this happened – the disastrous John Tortorella experiment, Roberto Luongo being shipped out to Florida, or simply because he didn’t want to be around for Mike Gillis’ next boneheaded move. But after reports surfaced last week that Kesler may still want out even after the head coach and general manager were fired, one can imagine that the 29 year old Kesler does not like where this organization is headed and wants to be given a chance to win the Stanley Cup; after all, he could taste it before it was taken away from him in a Game 7 just three years ago.
One team that new GM Jim Benning could look to make a deal with is the Anaheim Ducks. GM Bob Murray will surely be ringing Benning’s phone several times leading up to draft day since he has two first round picks (#10 acquired from Ottawa as well as their own #24) that he can use as trade bait. The Ducks have several young players who are still coming into their own, but they are without a doubt feeling that their window is now to win a Stanley Cup for the first time since 2007. To do that, they have some holes to fill this offseason; future Hall of Fame winger Teemu Selanne is retiring and center Saku Koivu will probably follow. Teemu was an excellent leader behind captain Ryan Getzlaf and Saku Koivu was the team’s number two center for a while, but Nick Bonino and Mathieu Perreault have yet to prove that they can fill Koivu’s shoes after he’s gone. To fulfill both the number two spot as well as the hole in their leadership group, two-way center Ryan Kesler can bring exceptional defensive play to the Ducks as well. While Getzlaf and Perry will likely play on the same line as long as they are Ducks, young guys like Jakob Silfverberg, Emerson Etem, and Rickard Rakell would greatly benefit from playing with a player of Kesler’s caliber. Nick Bonino as a third line center would make the Ducks exceptionally deep down the middle, and their defensive core is almost set with young guys like Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm, and soon Shea Theodore. The Canucks can use this trade to their advantage as well. During the draft deadline craze, it was reported that two teams made significant offers to Mike Gillis for Ryan Kesler’s services: Derrick Pouliot was the centerpiece of the Penguins’ pitch and Emerson Etem was reportedly on the table from the Ducks. On or before draft day, Jim Benning should make the 10th overall pick his priority. The Canucks currently hold the 6th pick, so this would give them two top ten picks in the same draft. They can also ask for Kyle Palmieri, a 23 year old right winger who has yet to play a full season but already scored a career-high 31 points in 2013-2014.
The future is bright for Palmieri, a former first round pick (26th overall in 2009) by Anaheim who can help the Canucks now. Youth has been scarce in the past few years on the Canucks roster, but with the new youth movement the past few years that saw guys like Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, and Brendan Gaunce drafted into the system, not to mention two young goalies on the roster now, the Canucks seem like they are gearing up for either a retool or a rebuild. The Retool Two scenarios can play out for the Canucks:
- The Canucks trade Ryan Kesler and a 3rd round pick to Anaheim for the 10th overall pick, right winger Kyle Palmieri, and defenseman Luca Sbisa.
- The Canucks trade Ryan Kesler to Anaheim for the 24th overall pick and Emerson Etem.
Either trade would benefit both teams greatly, plus the Ducks could look to replace Palmieri with UFA Matt Moulson or look to acquire R.J. Umberger if need be, and the multitude of defensemen they have on the roster will surely make up for Sbisa’s departure. The blockbuster would be the talk of the draft, but what the Canucks could do next would probably make for one of the most memorable draft days of all time. The Canucks can look to draft one of Michael Dal Colle, William Nylander, or Nikolaj Ehlers with the 6th pick and then one of Nick Ritchie, Jared McCann, or Haydn Fleury with the 10th pick, depending on who is available at each position. Depending on the development rate of these new guys as well as the guys in the system currently, the Canucks could become a contender again within a year or two. The Rebuild The Canucks can then trade the 6th and 10th overall pick to the Florida Panthers for the 1st overall pick in the draft. With the first pick, they could select one of Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, or Aaron Ekblad. Reinhart or Bennett could replace Kesler, while Ekblad could possibly even make Kevin Bieksa a tradeable asset. Reinhart or Bennett could emerge as the number one center of the future and the Sedins can provide as a buffer for a few more years until their contracts are up; this way, whichever center is taken would not have to carry the burden of being ‘the guy’ as a teenager.
Keeping Ryan Kesler on the Canucks almost seems foolish at this point. While he is a world-class hockey player and an even better leader, the Canucks are in need of a change. The Canucks have a chance to do something big this draft day and they should use Ryan Kesler while he still has value. Hopefully Jim Benning will look beyond the fact that Kesler could help them get back to the Stanley Cup Final with a better team around him and he will trade him to make the team better – and younger – for the future.