Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler is willing to waive his no-trade clause for a move to the right team. — Postmedia News files
Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen
The best time to trade Ryan Kesler is right now — which, of course, means it’s not happening.
At least, that’s the way it used to go.
This is the Canucks, who already missed the right time to trade Cory Schneider. Then, missed the right time to trade Roberto Luongo. And missed the best time to trade Alex Edler.
That’s quite a trifecta of stagnation.
But none of that waffling can be pinned on Canucks general manager Jim Benning, whose first player transaction promises to be a doozy.
The good news for Vancouver is that Benning has no holdups about trading in his division. “That has no bearing,” he says.
And he’s already been told by a couple of general managers he’s “different” and more unpredictable. If those comments were in comparison to his predecessor’s trade negotiations, this is not a bad thing.
Many have long predicted the biggest name to move at this year’s draft would be a nearly 30-year-old centre who has the ability to change the power structure in the Western Conference. Many remain convinced he’ll be gone before the Canucks pick at No. 6.
Kesler is the best player available in Philadelphia, a point driven home every time you hear someone suggest Jason Spezza is a backup plan.
The idea of Spezza leading a Western Conference team through the playoffs is laughable, which is probably why both Chicago and Anaheim have continued to pursue Kesler.
With both needing a second-line centre, and both on Kesler’s list, there has long been more than enough baking powder to get this cake to rise in Philly.
What there hasn’t been is any sugar. Both teams have been lowballing the Canucks on Kesler, a theme that goes back to the trade deadline, when the best offer was Emerson Etem and two second-round draft picks.
That made holding on to him then a no-brainer.
But are the Canucks willing to do it again?
Benning says he’s at least prepared for it, even suggesting the Canucks should be able to get better offers at the trade deadline.
“When you’re dealing with a player of his stature, at the trade deadline is when you can really do well, because (there are) those teams that feel they’re one player away that makes a difference to win,” Benning said. “You could possibly get more (then) than you can in the middle of summer when they’re not playing hockey.”
Many around the NHL, all of whom are at the draft, took this as “shots fired,” a warning to Kesler that if he remains inflexible on his precious six-team list he could end up going down the Roberto Luongo rabbit hole.
The Canucks are well aware that things don’t get better at the deadline, even with looming postseason pressure. They already went through this trade-deadline song-and-dance with Kesler. The offers underwhelmed. Teams said, “Just wait till the draft,” and here we sit.
The affable Benning expressed a thimble of frustration Thursday when asked about Kesler’s list, believed to be Detroit, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Anaheim and Chicago. Only Chicago, Anaheim and Pittsburgh had shown interest before this week, and Pittsburgh seemed to end theirs with the Dan Bylsma era, though that could change.
“It does (handcuff) you,” Benning acknowledged. “You don’t get to deal with a lot of teams.
“We’re talking to (Kesler’s) agent on a daily basis. We’re talking to teams. We’re hoping to figure something out that he’s happy with and we’re happy with.”
Those daily conversations with Kesler’s agent Kurt Overhardt, which seem to have been going on since Benning was hired, should cover a trip down memory lane to make sure Kesler’s camp vividly recalls the Luongo rock slide out of Vancouver.
If images of Luongo crying after the Canucks couldn’t trade him in 2013 aren’t enough to get Kesler to expand his list, nothing can.
“I’ve sat down, I’ve talked to Ryan,” Benning said. “We’re talking to teams, but at the end of the day we’re going to do what makes the most sense for us, and to try and help Ryan out.
“If we don’t think we can get a fair deal for him, then we’re going to keep him. He’s a Vancouver Canuck.”
It was interesting that, not long after Benning made waves in Philadelphia by saying keeping Kesler until the trade deadline could be a preferred option, a mystery team reportedly appeared.
That’s because no one wants Kesler to be a Canuck on Monday.
Not Vancouver, and not Kesler, who wants out. If that wasn’t clear before, it should be crystal clear now.
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