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What will Benning do with Kesler? Plenty of teams would like to know

May 22, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

Ryan Kesler AP

It’s hard to understate the value of a top two-way center.

Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Pavel Datsyuk. Can we agree that those are the first four names that pop to mind in the category?

Well, each of them has at least one Stanley Cup ring. And that’s no coincidence.

Which brings us to Ryan Kesler, the 2011 winner of the Selke Trophy, which just so happened to be the same year he fell one win shy of hoisting the Cup with the Vancouver Canucks. Also, not a coincidence.

Now, one could debate whether Kesler is still a Selke-caliber player. The 29-year-old has only added to his lengthy injury log the past few seasons, and he wasn’t even in the conversation for the award in 2013-14. But there’s a reason Kesler’s future in Vancouver is one of the major question marks facing incoming general manager Jim Benning, and a story that will be watched with great interest around the NHL. If the Canucks do decide to deal the Livonia native — something they explored at this season’s deadline, before Benning’s predecessor, Mike Gillis, was fired — there will be suitors. Plenty of them.

According to The Province, Kesler was willing to waive his no-trade clause for six teams: Anaheim, Colorado, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.The Ducks and Penguins were considered the front-runners to add his services, though ultimately no deal was made. At least one of them still sounds interested. The other needs to hire a new GM first.

The budget-conscious Avs are an interesting potential trade partner, given the uncertain future of two-way center Paul Stastny, not to mention Kesler’s affordable contract that has two years remaining, with an annual salary of just $5 million.

Not sure the Blackhawks have the cap room for Kesler, but could they use him as a second-line center? Without a doubt.

Tampa Bay? Detroit? They’d probably take Benning’s call. And if Kesler really wants out of Vancouver, he may be willing to expand his list beyond six teams.

Or, the Canucks may decide to keep Kesler. Vancouver’s new president of hockey ops, Trevor Linden, said yesterday that he was encouraged by the conversation the two had following the season. And while it’s not totally clear what Linden meant by that, he also said he wants to make the playoffs next year. Which would seem to preclude a wholesale rebuild.

Anyway, Benning will be introduced to the media tomorrow in Vancouver.

Kesler’s name might come up.

  1. muckleflugga - May 22, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    it’s stretching it a bit to see kesler mentioned in the same article as bergeron, datsyuk, kopitar and toews … it would seem he gets a lot of mileage off his 2010 2011 campaign [ and we thought the toronto media were prone to gilding the lily ]

    still, any return on a kesler move would have to be in proportion to the output of a consistent 20 goal a year journeyman … kesler wants chicago or detroit for reasons obvious, but neither are giving-up anything of consequence, why would they

    unless benning himself brings some objectivity to the process, rating an injury prone player with a chronically damaged hip, kesler’s staying where he is for the same reasons he did at the trade deadline

    but you never know, with iginla, marchand and thornton available shortly, kesler might be a good fit in boston … i can see canucks fans falling in love with all three

    • mackstrong2013 - May 24, 2014 at 4:38 PM

      Wow, you’re hilarious. Ryan Keslers value equals a 20 goal scoring journeyman? I remember my first hockey game…

  2. imleftcoast - May 22, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    He certainly would have improved the Penguins chances. Gillis was useless as GM, should’ve gotten a deal done.

  3. leepetertk - May 22, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    Every recent Stanley Cup winning team has this type of defensive shutdown player. If I were a team looking to push into elite territory, I would line up for a player like Kesler. Recent injuries and effectiveness are an issue though.

    If the Canucks do decide to move kesler, then Linden should be calling it a retool or rebuild because they would need to replace Kesler’s defensive shutdown role in order to become a possible contender again.

    I don’t think the Canucks will move Kesler until they know what they have in their prospects (Horvat, Shinkaruk, Jensen, Gauce). They are already very weak at forward. Trading Kesler for futures will ensure they struggle again next year.

  4. penvik - May 22, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    Bob Nicholson to Pittsburgh for GM
    You heard it here first!!!!

  5. willrad00 - May 22, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    Why even bother putting the Avalanche on the list? They already have 6 decent centers not to mention O’Reilly is turning into quite the two-way forward himself.

    • jernster21 - May 22, 2014 at 1:57 PM

      Because no one ever wanted more than one good two way center on their team….

      • 19to77 - May 22, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        The Avs have three. Duchene’s good in his own zone, Statsny’s a great two-way player and O’Reilly was originally a centre and can always be moved back. Right now the Avs play two of their top-six centres as wingers. Generally that’s a pretty good sign that centre isn’t your highest priority – even if Statsny’s let go, and he probably isn’t, where and how do you fit Kesler into that roster?

      • andidee15 - May 22, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        @19to77, I would imagine he’d slot in right where Stastny is currently. MacKinnon is awesome, but I’m not convinced he’s ready to face tough defensive minutes at center yet. Maybe in another couple years he will be, but if we can keep him as the 3rd line C or top 6 wing until then and slot in a 2-way guy at #2C, that’d probably be the best thing for the team right now.

        The big question becomes what would we have to give up for someone like Kesler. Personally, I’d rather see us find a way to just keep Stastny.

      • jernster21 - May 22, 2014 at 3:29 PM

        You can never have too much depth at center. We found this out the hard way when Duchene and Mitchell were hurt going into the playoffs and suddenly we had a problem. We made the first two lines work but beyond that there was no depth. The only way Kesler fits in is if there’s no Stastny so who knows how that situation plays out but if he has two years on his contract then you have two years before you need to put MacKinnon in a full time top six center role. He seemed to transition well between wing and center over the course of the year and I don’t expect that to change next year. Either way, this is the first I even heard of Kesler having the Avs on “his list”, but it goes to show, in a matter of one year, players are taking note of all the talent on the team and it’s making Colorado an attractive destination.

  6. oneil1234 - May 22, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    If Kessler was in the same league as the players above he wouldn’t be involved on trade talks….

    • 19to77 - May 22, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      Riiiight. I forgot, no good player has ever been traded.

      • areaman714 - May 22, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        Gretzky was a shell of himself when the Oilers traded him.

      • areaman714 - May 22, 2014 at 6:23 PM

        I am guess there are 12 folks that choose to ignore the possibility of sarcasm.

  7. pdmjr - May 22, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    James Neal for Kesler

  8. xx1111 - May 22, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    If the Avs are going to trade assets it will be for DEFENSIVE help rather than for offense.

    • rushbacker - May 22, 2014 at 10:52 PM

      Absolutely. Sure, you can always use more depth, but they have a strong goalie and a sufficiency of good forwards– the blue line is clearly where they need the most help.

  9. flash8910 - May 22, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    As Bob Murray’s right hand man, I am willing to offer Frederick Andersen, 1st round pick, but you have to take Bryan Allen or Lucas Sbisa, too.

  10. oneil1234 - May 22, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    19-77… You let me know when datsyuk, kopitar, toews, and Bergeron get traded than well talk. Idiot

    • 19to77 - May 22, 2014 at 5:23 PM

      Gretzky, Hasek, Esposito, Messier, Selanne, Gilmour, Dryden, Turgeon, Brett Hull and Larry Murphy. Great names, legends of the sport, all traded well within the primes of their respective careers. Get back to me when you’ve followed hockey for a few more years, friend. You haven’t learned your history.

    • rushbacker - May 22, 2014 at 10:49 PM

      Hilarious. You remember when Boston traded the legendary Ray Borque to Colorado, where he finally won a Cup? One of the great moments in hockey.

    • mackstrong2013 - May 24, 2014 at 4:43 PM

      Might want to cool off on the insults until you figure out English. Also, sorry, but Bergeron isn’t exactly out of Kesler’s league. The biggest difference in these players, is everyone but Dats, who is 74, plays on teams that consistently compete, OF COURSE they aren’t getting traded.

  11. phillyphanatic77 - May 22, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    God I’m so tired of front office personnel being petrified of using the “R” words (retool/rebuild/rework/reconstitute/whatever the hell else). I get that you think it will affect your bottom line with the fans if they don’t believe you’re doing everything possible to contend but c’mon we’re not blind-deaf mutes unable to see or react to the products in front of us. Anyone with a basic understanding of the sport (Mike Gillis obviously excluded) could see the Canucks steady decline across the board. Their stars are aging (poorly), they gave up two #1 goalies in less than a year, they fired a coach who fit their personnel and hired one who clearly didn’t, and their GM decided to give everyone a NMC/NTC. And to top it off they have arguably the worst pipeline in the league (I know, a Flyers fan shouldn’t comment, but we have plenty of youth at the NHL level).

    I don’t doubt that Benning/Linden can fix that mess I’d just like a little honesty and not have the entire NHL establishment treat fans so condescendingly. Gillis almost pulled a Milbury up there and we are all aware of it.

  12. bruinsfan1953 - May 22, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    Trade him to the bruins

  13. sayingthetruthperiod - May 22, 2014 at 6:58 PM

    Kesler for Letang

  14. hockeyflow33 - May 22, 2014 at 7:45 PM

    We should have traded Benning for Kesler

  15. canada2014gold - May 22, 2014 at 10:10 PM

    Lol imagine if you could trade management for assets. Too funny, I’m sure Boston will be fine without Benning.

  16. oneil1234 - May 22, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    I don’t see anywhere in This article
    Talking about the players you named….. I’m
    Not talking about history I’m talking about the 4 players mention bud. The way the nhl is now compared to back in the day is a big difference, I don’t see any getting traded or even talked about getting traded. Can anyone else say they think they will lol no so piss off man and admit your wrong.

    • hawkeedawg - May 23, 2014 at 12:18 AM

      Sorry oneil, you are wrong, here are a few more recent trades, Nash, Carter, Richards, St. Louis, Penner, Luongo, Schneider, Miller, Gaborik, Vanek and so on… piss off and admit you’re (notice the correct spelling) wrong.

      • faithfiction32 - May 23, 2014 at 1:08 PM

        yea oneil’s comments are fairly ridiculous….any team would love to have kesler…plus great players get traded all the time. I’m not sure what sport he thinks he’s been watching.

  17. pfhockey - May 23, 2014 at 2:37 AM

    I’d be stoked if the Lightning acquired Kesler but it’s highly unlikely. If it were the case, Val would have to move back to LW but Drouin is coming.

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