After months of speculation regarding his future with the Vancouver Canucks, center Ryan Kesler was dealt to Anaheim in an offseason trade.
The Ducks announced the deal on Friday:
Kesler supplied his thoughts on the move on the Ducks' Twitter:
Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times has more from Kesler:
Kesler has been a huge part of Vancouver's stay atop the Western Conference over the past several seasons, but an apparent divide between him and the organization ultimately necessitated a move that sent one of the Canucks' most popular players packing.
It was initially reported on Feb. 26 by Louis Jean of TVA Sports that Kesler had requested a trade from Vancouver:
Following that report, however, Kesler's agent, Kurt Overhardt, called the rumor "a bunch of B.S.," according to TSN. Kesler also refuted the notion that he had asked to be traded.
"I never commented to anyone that I wanted out," Kesler said. "My heart is with this group and making the playoffs."
Apparently there was some truth to the chatter, though.
Former Canucks general manager Mike Gillis didn't take the bait laid out by the media either. Per Brad Ziemer of The Vancouver Sun, Gillis refused to comment on Kesler or any potential trade situation leading up to the deadline.
I am not going to talk about anything internal, whether he (Kesler) has asked or not asked to be traded, whether any other player has asked to be traded. I have never done it and I wouldn't discuss it outside our office with anybody other than our staff under any circumstances, no matter what it is. I'm not discussing it here.
Despite not being serious playoff contenders and ultimately missing out on the postseason, the Canucks decided to hang on to Kesler rather than dealing him at the deadline. That simply delayed the inevitable, though, as the new regime decided to start fresh.
Gillis was fired during the offseason and replaced by Jim Benning. Much like his predecessor, however, Benning was mum on Kesler's status prior to the trade, per Mark Spector of Sportsnet:
There was no shortage of potential suitors, but there was some concern regarding whether Vancouver would be able to get a deal done. According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Kesler initially wanted to be traded only to the Pittsburgh Penguins or Chicago Blackhawks.
He later reported that the St. Louis Blues were in talks to possibly acquire Kesler, per Andrew Allsman of KMOV.com:
In addition to the Blues, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as potential suitors, with a second-line center being their No. 1 priority, according to Spector:
The 29-year-old forward was a hot commodity among potential Stanley Cup contenders, so he essentially had his pick of the litter, as did the Canucks when it came to getting the best possible return.
Kesler scored 25 goals this past season after missing all but 17 games in 2012-13 due to the lockout and injury. He scored a career-high 41 goals in 2010-11 and also recorded 19 points in 25 playoff games for Vancouver as it reached that season's Stanley Cup Final.
Perhaps most importantly, Kesler is viewed as one of the best two-way centers in hockey. That was confirmed in 2011 when he won the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL's best defensive forward.
The rugged Michigan native also carried a ton of trade value due to the fact that he has two years remaining on his contract at a reasonable annual salary of $5 million. Kesler isn't a one-year rental by any means, and that helped bolster Vancouver's overall return.
ESPN's LeBrun talked about what the deal meant for the Ducks:
It's impossible to sort out the fact and fiction regarding Kesler's issues with the Canucks, but it's important to note that a disgruntled player is nothing new in Vancouver. Goalie Roberto Luongo was constantly brought up in trade talks the past few seasons before the Canucks decided to trade Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils last offseason.
Vancouver then proceeded to trade Luongo to the Florida Panthers at the deadline, so there seemed to be a lot of turmoil within the front office prior to the changes that were made this offseason.
Perhaps Canucks management hasn't always handled these situations in the best manner, but parting ways was likely the best option for all parties involved. Kesler is presumably now happy, and Vancouver received a strong return.
The focus now shifts to how the Canucks will cope with the loss of Kesler. Vancouver has the pieces necessary to be a playoff contender in 2014-15, but it won't be easy to replace the myriad skills that Kesler brings to the table.
Kesler's departure puts even more pressure on the Sedin twins to produce, but others will have to step up around them as well. Vancouver still has a ton of talent and is more than capable of being a player in the Western Conference, but doing so without Kesler will definitely be a challenge.
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