Opinion

Rumour Has It: Are the Anaheim Ducks Interested in Ryan Kesler?

Ryan Kesler stares into the lens of a Vancouver camera, while at Canucks practice in 2012. - Wikimedia Commons (author Loxy!!)
Ryan Kesler stares into the lens of a Vancouver camera, while at Canucks practice in 2012.
— image credit: Wikimedia Commons (author Loxy!!)

Simply Google the words "Kesler Anaheim" and you'll be littered with a top-down of grammatically challenged blogs, all of them feeding the hungry rumours of the big, two-way, once-Selke-worthy centre and that team down in Orange Country. But you won't read one finer, or more convincing, than the quick digest from Edmonton's Jim Matheson.

Leave it to an observer from your competitor's market to lay the whole thing out perfectly and pragmatically for you. Those Oiler guys... they get to watch and judge all year long, developing agnostic opinions because they don't have to worry about the playoffs, or even the disappointment of not making them. It's all gravy in Edmonton. That lends well for analysis, because they can sift through the manure in almost everything. They always have their eyes on the end of the tunnel because they've always been in it.

But enough of that.

Matheson not only makes the case that the Canucks could get a significant haul from the Ducks in exchange for 17's services, but he then makes the case that Anaheim would be completely insane not to make a deal for him.

The Ducks have to get Kesler, he says. Two straight postseasons of basically identical defeats have left them flaccid and, for now, impotent next to a rotating cast of Western powers. Detroit popped your balloon one year, then Los Angeles humbled you the next after Dallas nearly embarrassed you.

Anaheim is in trouble if it doesn't do something... anything. Especially with guys like Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu either retired or irrelevant.

"The Ducks also have Getzlaf and wingman Corey Perry in their prime at age 29," writes Matheson. "They don’t want to waste that. They need some veteran help up front and Kesler is the perfect fit for playing behind Getzlaf, the likely runner-up to Sidney Crosby for the Hart Trophy as most valuable player this season.

"Kesler’s body has taken a beating in Vancouver, but he can be a shutdown centre in Anaheim and contribute 50-60 points. If the Kings have Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter as their No. 1-2 at centre and San Jose has Joe Thornton and Logan Couture as their tag-team in the middle, the Ducks need Kesler, who has two more years at a very palatable $5 million."

So, what could the Canucks get for him? What could they pry – sorry, pluck – from Anaheim's feathers?

Take your pick. It doesn't really matter. Because the return for Vancouver would be the most it could get for the still-dominant Kesler, and the Canucks have hopefully learned enough from that Luongo-Schneider experiment to know that you can't just hold on to your greatest assets while they're at their highest value.

(Of course, the current Canucks may not have learned that, because Mike Gillis has been replaced and then split into Trevor Linden and Jim Benning. Neither newcomer was around Vancouver for the past three seasons, officially, so neither knew what happened, really. But, whatever. They seem smarter than me, so I'm sure they've seen what I've seen.)

Anyway.

The Canucks could easily get three pieces from Anaheim for Kesler, writes Matheson. And I agree. But I'd take a quality two over a minimally more numerical bounty.

Anaheim has two first round picks, the No. 10 and the No. 24. Vancouver needs it to be that 10th overall, not the second one.

Imagine if Vancouver can combine their already 'earned' No. 6 pick with a second in the first dime... imagine taking a talent like William Nylander with their first pick, or even if they settle for Nikolaj Ehlers there, and then they get to draft Buowmeester copy Haydn Fleury four picks later. Incredible.

If Vancouver can swing that deal, then I'm not worried about upgrading the other trading chip to Nick Bonino form Kyle Palmieri. I'll take Mathieu Perreault instead, too. Would I rather get Devante Smith-Pelley or Emerson Etem? Uh, duh. But I'm not going to.

Benning says he wants Vancouver to be a playoff team in 2015. Sorry to say it, Ryan, but the Canucks don't need Kesler to accomplish that. He's their best overall player, but he's a log jam down the middle. He pushes the Sedin twins but he's already cost us Orca fans Cody Hodgson and he's not going to budge for Bo Horvat, Zack Kassian, or Hunter Shinkaruk, either.

Those guys don't all play centre, but nobody plays wing with Kesler. They play wing for Kesler.

The other guys of RK17's pedigree – Selke hopefuls like Jonathan Toews or Patrice Bergeron or Anze Kopitar or even Jamie Benn – don't do that.

But Anaheim needs the guy. Because he can still control the play like anyone in the NHL and he can play more minutes than anyone not named Crosby. If the Ducks add Kesler, they immediately vault from the West's No. 1 seed to the West's No. 1 contender.

Vancouver needs to rebuild. Anaheim needs to re-tool.

This is the best chance for each of them, right now – for both Pacific rivals to come to friendly (but hostile) terms on a rare (and often undesirable) bit of inner-division diplomacy.

Thanks for the help, Jim. Let's hope Vancouver's new bosses read your stuff.

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