Benning traded Ryan Kesler before situation began to ‘fester’
Kesler wanted to go to either Anaheim or Chicago, and Vancouver was happy to oblige before centre’s wishes became a distraction to the team
When Trader Jim Benning was advised to hold on to Ryan Kesler, with hope he’d either expand his list or Anaheim would sweeten their offer, he essentially said:
Forget that noise.
Instead, Benning aggressively pulled the trigger, dumping Kesler for 60 cents on the dollar, taking the best package offered before the draft, and launching the Canucks, for better or worse, into a new era.
Maybe a little of his reluctance to keep ol’ No. 17 was his twice-daily phone calls with Kesler’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, which were hostile, and included both threats and screaming. Or more accurately, screaming threats.
Maybe some of it was because Kesler had already cut his list from six to two, and there was talk he was about to cut it to one.
Mostly, though, it’s because Benning didn’t want a player who didn’t want Vancouver, believing that trading a malcontent was addition by subtraction all by itself.
The Kesler trade to the Anaheim Ducks may not be a great move. But it sure was a bold one. And this was all Benning, who slammed his boot print into the middle of the Orca this weekend.
The Canucks got Nick Bonino, a third-line centre who just got promoted to the second line; a bottom pairing defenceman in Luca Sbisa, who has an unattractive contract; centre Jared McCann, who they took with the 24th overall pick, a solid pickup though he lacks first-line potential; and Derek Dorsett, the bottom-six forward they reeled in from the New York Rangers after flipping third-round picks with the Ducks.
In terms of numbers, it’s quite a haul. It terms of upside and skill, well, the Canucks fell well short and still need a whole lot of upside and skill.
In the end, this was a bargain-basement purchase for the Ducks.
Also, it was the best Benning could get after Kesler fed his team a crap sandwich on his way out by taking the Pittsburgh Penguins off his list, and keeping only Anaheim and Chicago on it, knowing the Hawks couldn’t afford him.
At least he got what he wanted.
Out of Anaheim, the Canucks failed to get one of the Ducks' top prospects and they didn’t get their 10th overall pick, assets which were offered in different packages at the deadline.
But they did get a general manager who is both unpredictable and unafraid.
“I’m not careful, you know that by now,” Benning said. “I’m going to do what I think is right.”
Benning felt the toxicity from the Kesler situation the first day he stepped into his Rogers Arena office. He hoped it would be different, but Kesler called Day 1. He wanted to meet. It was in that meeting he would tell the new boss he wanted the hell out of Vancouver. And fast.
In his press rounds after the deal, Kesler chirped the Canucks, suggesting they were four years away from contending. He’s probably right, by the way, but it was still a bad look.
A divide had developed between him and the current Canucks leadership core. They had voted to strip him of his letter during the season and were said to be “ecstatic” to get the news the moping Kesler was gone.
“I talked to (Overhardt) every morning and before I went to bed every night,” Benning said.
“I said to Kurt, when my wife was in Boston with the kids, ‘I only talk to my wife once a day, but I talk to you twice a day.’
“He got a good laugh out of that.
“There was a lot of threats both ways. Kurt would phone and yell and scream at me. I’d yell and scream at him. We’d put it to bed.
“The next we’d wake up and start all over again.”
That’s some way to spend your first month on the job.
Acting decisively wasn’t exactly Mike Gillis’s strongest characteristic. And yes, the Canucks admit the offers were much better at the trade deadline when Kesler’s contract still had three postseason runs left, not two.
The Canucks clearly overplayed their hand then, but how much is on Gillis and how much is on Francesco Aquilini, who was in the deadline day war room, is unclear.
“The Kesler thing, no one wanted to do that, but it’s part of the business,” Benning said.
“I didn’t want this to fester.
“Quite frankly, we don’t want someone who doesn’t want to be here.
“We would have liked to keep him, but his mind was made up. We did the best we could with the situation.”
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