Is Kesler on the block?
The most talked about commodity on the Canucks trade list over the past year and a half has been Roberto Luongo and that could very well be justifiable with the emergence of Cory Schneider (it still appears as though keeping Bobby Lu around for the duration of this season is the Canucks best move).
However, Vancouver may have another hot ticket to add to the list, one Ryan Kesler.
Now before Canuck diehards get their jockstraps all bunched up, hear me out. Kesler is more valuable to the Canucks in trade than he is to them on the ice.
This train of thought is along the same lines as Mark Cuban stating that the Lakers should amnesty Kobe after this season. Freakin’ absurd, but yet somewhat makes sense when you break it down.
How can you justify this?
Everyone who is a Canucks fan is probably in agreement that Ryan Kesler is the new Trevor Linden, at least on the ice and in the locker room (honestly, few could match the off ice presence that Linden has given to the city).
Like with Linden, trading Kesler could come back to haunt the club, but for a team whose playoff window is quickly closing, if they move Kesler now, they could bring in one or two young pieces that could help maybe not immediately but in the near future.
Two years ago, RK17 was without a doubt the Vancouver Canucks best player, no questions asked. Untradeable. Untouchable. The second coming of what they hoped Todd Bertuzzi was going to be.
Since that time it appears as though Kesler and fans have started to see a decline in his production.
In 2009-10, Kesler notched a career high 75 points in 82 games and everyone attached to the NHL one way or another had him pegged to be the one to carry the torch for Vancouver for the next five to seven years.
2010-11 was pretty much a mirror image of the previous season with 72 points, while dressing for every game on the schedule and once again confirming his elite status to the team with a career high 41 goals.
Last season, Kesler dressed in 77 of the Canucks games, but appeared to be a shell of the expectation that many had set for him.
Sure he had just come off of off-season labrum surgery and yes there is little doubt that he returned to the line up too early, but like with D12 and the Lakers, sometimes you just have to either man up to the expectations or man up to the fact that despite your best intent, that you are just not ready to perform.
The rumors have been swirling
Over the last year or two Kesler has been rumored to be moved for anyone from Bobby Ryan to Rick Nash to a couple of promising youngsters to draft picks.
Let’s face it, trading elite franchise players is no longer forbidden (look at Dany Heatley, Mike Richards, Wayne Gretzky)
Does Kesler currently have value to the Canucks, no doubt.
Does he currently have value to the rest of the league, for sure.
Even though he has now come off of shoulder surgery in which he was on the shelf since May, the Canucks could move him for some valued pieces in return.
When you start to take note of Kesler’s health record as of late, it may be better to cut losses now and move him in order to be proactive for the future, rather than reactive.
At 28 years old, with multiple surgeries behind him, Kesler isn’t getting any younger and healing wounds is only going to take more time.
Yes he has a cap friendly contract, and yes he has been a Selke winner or contender for the past handful of seasons, but when you look at valuable trade commodities, Luongo isn’t the only attractive piece that the Canucks can dangle.
‘Nucks sure weren’t winning with him this year
Since Kesler returned to the Canucks lineup on February 15th, the team went 2-5 (including 2 SO losses), prior to that the team had posted a winning record…coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
It would be hard to plant the losses solely on #17 but the fact is the team had learned how to play somewhat successfully without him.
While Kesler possesses a No Trade Clause, so too does Luongo and that hasn’t stopped Mike Gillis and the Canucks from entertaining moving their former captain and number 1 goaltender this season or next.
If the right package becomes available, it may be wise for the Canucks front office to open their minds to moving another franchise cornerstone in order to start reloading (not rebuilding) for the future.