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Will the Vancouver Canucks trade Ryan Kesler?
The question above is one with an answer you really don't know unless you really know, and that makes tomorrow's trade deadline as exciting as it is nerve-wracking, if you're the kind of fan who already, on their own, struggles with buyers remorse at some place like Wal Mart.
Trading Ryan Kesler is sad on a couple of levels, neither of which should dissuade the Canucks from doing it: 1) It means we're throwing in the towel on this batch of Vancouverites, and it means this generation with no ceiling actually had a ceiling, and it was three years ago; and 2) It means the Canucks are trading one of their only homegrown success stories, straight out of the NHL Draft to the NHL's awards floor, from a lanky kid wearing #20 to one of the best two-way forwards in the world with a clothing company called RK17.
But again, those aren't reasons not to trade him... they just give you breakup goggles.
If the Canucks can get a good haul for the guy many once thought should have been captain, it's a necessity. The team needs to be shaken up, and it probably should have been shaken up 23 months ago, right after Vancouver lost in five to an eighth-seeded (but eventually dynastic) Los Angeles Kings team.
Vancouver chose not to trade Roberto Luongo, mainly because they couldn't, partly because they were greedy with it. But even there, even by trading Cory Schneider, Vancouver still left themselves with a Hall of Fame goaltender in Luongo. He doesn't want to be here, but he's still Roberto Luongo. And he's having his best season since 2007, in my (and many's) opinion.
With Kesler, the Canucks can fill holes and they can fast-forward to next season... and seasons beyond.
Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce... none of these guys knock you over on name alone, but neither did Ryan Kesler when he first came in. He was a hard-working player who exceeded expectations. Kesler didn't fully arrive until Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra came to town, and Kes was able to come from the bottom-up alongside true veterans. That half-season Kesler spent with each of them, it was like they calmed him down... like their years with other flourishing, budding stars had taught them a thing or two, like they knew how to play with him and when he needed to be burped.
Kesler took the torch and ran with it, but now his presence is suffocating the arrival of others.
It's hard to imagine Horvat ever getting the chance to play decent minutes with Kesler here. It was hard enough to imagine Cody Hodgson getting those minutes, and he was ready for them. He had already earned them, really.
The Philadelphia Flyers are thought to be the favourite to acquire Seventeen, and a nice, compiling piece by Sportsnet's Luke Fox will show you that anything is possible if you simple start to imagine it.
Sure, why not trade Kesler to this place... for this guy, and THIS guy and THIS GUY?! They could do it...
Word is, a trade with Philadelphia could net the Canucks either Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier... or both. In my opinion, Philly would be crazy to do this, but that's only because I think Vancouver would be crazy not to do it.
If it's only one of the two of them, then expect a 'Prospect' and a '1st Round Draft Pick' to be coming this way, too.
That is, reportedly, the asking price for Kesler. It's too steep for some teams, but Rick Nash handcuffed the Columbus Blue Jackets when he got out of there, and the Jackets got more for him than the Canucks are asking for Kesler.
Part of that is hindsight – the Rangers would not make that same trade again, I don't think, and other teams wouldn't, either – and the rest is left to be explained.
The Canucks have been desperate for two years. Even though their past desperation involved a shrinking cap and a constantly pending trade involving Roberto Luongo, the attitude of desperation has been hanging over this team since June, 2011. Any team should look at the Canucks – then look at Kesler – and think, "Yeah, we can take these guys."
Like the San Jose Sharks last season and the Dallas Stars every season, the Canucks have to be both Buyers and Sellers. Boston does this, too, as does Chicago, and it seems to play well for each because they keep their chosen core – Toews, Kane, Sharp in Chicago and Bergeron, Krejci, Lucic in Boston – around.
They have to ship out some pieces and bring in minor ones, but the ones they bring in will have to be here past 2015. That's the trick with Schenn or Couturier... will they want to stay, and would we be able to keep them? We could certainly pay for them, by splitting up Kesler's salary and (I'm just predicting here) buying out Alex Burrows or David Booth this offseason. But knowing how flighty a players' love for one team and one city is – i.e. Kesler, himself – almost leaves the Canucks in a tough bind, where they'd have to get both Schenn and Couturier and hope they can keep just one.
But why not look at moving Alex Edler for another young defenceman, or maybe a pick. (Maybe Christian Ehrhoff? Why not?) Why not look at Stephane Robidas or Tyler Myers, or Mike Cammalleri or Matt Moulson? At this point, what is patience doing for you?
The Pittsburgh Penguins are chasing Kesler harder than any other team, we hear, with their original package involving centre Brandon Sutter, defenceman Simon Despres, and a 1st Round Pick.
No go, in my opinion, and in Vancouver's, too.
Now, 'Chipped Ice' reports that Pittsburgh could be softening up to include defenceman Derrick Pouliot in that deal. If you're Mike Gillis, that's a pretty sweet pot.
Detroit and Chicago both want to be in play, as well, but would either franchise part with a piece the Canucks would actually want?
They're also in very different situations than either Philly or Pitt. Chicago is out West, so they're not competing against the same teams the other suitors are... not getting Kesler won't even affect them unless they see him in the Stanley Cup Final this year, or next year. After that, he's a free agent and they're open to sign him. And they've already won two Stanley Cups since 2010, so how greedy can you be?
In Detroit, the Wings have got to be thinking about how they position themselves four or five years from now, when Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have either retired or are Selanne-ing it, but they can't let these aging veterans be their only equity.
Are youngsters like Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar the real deal? Would the Wings be comfortable trading them to get Kesler, to effectively stay competitive and ride this 20-year-plus wave until it crests? Would Vancouver even want them, or does the potential of a Schenn-plus-Couturier package spoil Detroit's basket?
(Again, these are all hypotheticals. But it's fun, right?)
Or, the Canucks could do what they did with Luongo and just not trade Kesler. It wasn't a bad plan before – after all, no team has to trade anyone, and they shouldn't let their own players hold them hostage – but it didn't wash right. A couple coloured socks got in with their whites and stained everything else, and the Canucks still had to wear those socks the next day.
It won't be on the Canucks if they don't trade Kesler by tomorrow, but if they don't, it will be on them by Thursday.