Ryan Kesler: The End is Nigh

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Multiple rumours coming out of Vancouver are being confirmed by TSN that Ryan Kesler has once again changed his mind and requested a trade out of Vancouver. Kesler reportedly met with new Canucks GM Jim Benning earlier in the week, and Kesler provided a list of 5-7 teams he’d agree to be traded to, with the Anaheim Ducks being the most sensible from an outsider’s standpoint.

Whether Kesler stays or goes, one thing is for sure; The 2014 NHL Entry Draft will carve the future of the Vancouver Canucks.

Ryan Kesler was drafted 23rd overall back in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and is the crown jewel of Ron Delorme’s tenure as the Canucks head amateur scout. Kesler has been the x-factor of the Canucks

Kesler’s Rookie Card.

since he emerged as a Top-6 center back in 2008-2009. It’s been proven that Kesler has been the contributing factor that pushed the Canucks to back-to-back Presidents Trophies in 2010/11 and 2011/12, and he has proved that without him at 100%, the Canucks can’t produce much against the top teams in the league. After a remarkable 41 goal campaign in 2010/11 en route to being a game away from winning the holy grail that has eluded Vancouver for so long, an injury-filled 2013 allowed Kesler to only play in 17 games, and saw his elite-calibur speed and shot tone down at alarming rates. Kesler recovered to his usual self for the 2013/14 campaign, but he never clicked with his wingers and his production fell through the floor, much like the rest of the team. For Kesler, it’s been a frustrating run since he dismantled the Nashville Predators by himself back in the 2011 playoffs.

After a brutal season from the Canucks, one of the worst in a very long time, the Canucks are seeking change. With the Sedins guaranteed to be off the block, the only large asset up front to be moved would be Kesler. While he’s the ultimate x-factor for the team and is one of the best two-way centers in the league, reports are coming out that Kesler wants out. This is the first major decision for the newly hired Trevor Linden and Jim Benning, as the future of the team lies in their hands. Although their hands may be tied with Kesler, it’s up to them to get as much back as possible. TSN analyst Darren Dreger says the Canucks want an immediate impact centre in return for Kesler (which is a bit redundant if you ask me), but it’s entirely up to Linden and Benning as to the direction they want to go with this team.

If they trade Kesler for a draft pick (lets just say Top-10 for now), it leaves a massive gap, especially since Kesler plays in all roles for the Canucks. After Kesler, you have Mike Santorelli, who isn’t even signed at this point, Shawn Matthias, Brad Richardson and Bo Horvat vying for a 2nd line center position. Call me crazy, but that isn’t a group that should be contesting for a role as a 2nd line center on a contending team. If the Canucks want to win now, don’t trade Kesler. Buy him a car, a house, anything to keep him in town. When he’s healthy, Kesler makes the Canucks an elite team. With the Sedins being plagued with injuries and the sideshow of John Tortorella storming opposing team’s locker rooms, the Canucks were never able to recover from a New Years’ slump that turned into a disastrous 2nd half of the season.

If Kesler gets moved, most hints are leaning towards Anaheim, who are in search of a Top-6 center to round out their team for a cup run. The Ducks have many assets the Canucks could use: a Top-10

Kesler celebrates with Kassian.

draft pick, Emerson Etem, Hampus Lindholm, Jakob Silfverberg and Sami Vatanen. If Kesler were to be traded, I’d expect Linden and Benning to bring in younger talent that can contribute at an NHL level. While the draft class of 2014 may not provide the best chance at landing an NHL-ready player, it still provides an opportunity to draft a high-potential prospect that can flourish into something useful down the road. It’s not a secret that teams need good young talent on their roster to make up a good team, take the LA Kings for example. They have two young players in Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson playing big roles for the team on ELC’s, which allow for more cap room to bring in free agents and re-sign star players and create a window of opportunity to be an elite force.

With the Canucks, I can’t really see a cup contending team in the near future without Ryan Kesler. Unless Bo Horvat is able to fill the shoes of Kesler in his rookie campaign (which is highly doubtful), the Canucks won’t make much of an impact next season without RK17. If the Canucks can bring in another Top-6 center in return for Kesler, it’ll depend on the Sedins and the player in return for Kesler as to how far the team can go. With the struggle the Canucks now face between the pipes, it must be made up for by their star players in the Sedins and Kesler, Hamhuis etc. The Canucks’ core cannot afford to have another dismal season like they had in 2013/14.

Although there’s nothing in ink, it appears to seem like Ryan Kesler wants out. Which is unfortunate, really. Kesler has worked his way through the ranks with the Canucks, and has been the one piece of the puzzle that elevated the Canucks to greatness from 2010-2012. Although there’s no cup ring around his finger to show the hard work and dedication he’s put into this team, his fingerprints are all over the past success of the team. His work ethic, two-way game and gritty style of play all while keeping a finesse scoring touch are something very few in this league possess. June 27th, 2014 will be a pivotal day in Canucks history, and will shape this organization for years to come.

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