Kuzma: Canucks’ Kesler is a steal at $5 million
Benning talks trade etc.: Philadelphia, are you listening?
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
Without saying much, Jim Benning said enough Monday.
Knowing that the agenda has never really changed for Ryan Kesler — the Vancouver Canucks centre is willing to waive his no-trade clause to move to a contender of his choice — it’s up to the club’s new general manager to determine whether there’s a way to appease the former Selke Trophy winner or determine what his market value is. And that has to be done quickly with the draft approaching because it’s the stage where big deals are often completed and announced amid the annual gathering of hockey hierarchy. Cory Schneider for Bo Horvat stole the show a year ago.
Benning and Kesler did meet last week, and you have to read between the lines.
“We had a good conversation and what was said in the meeting is going to remain between Ryan and myself,” said Benning. “We’re going to continue to communicate and go from there.”
Communication can either mean ‘what’s it going to take to keep you here?’ or ‘what can we get for you?’ Bet on the latter, although it may take some time before for the Canucks are offered a package they’re happy with. Anaheim and Pittsburgh came calling at the trade deadline and the Ducks do have two first-round picks in this draft and roster regulars to trade, including centre Mathieu Perreault and winger Kyle Palmieri. The Ducks have to get by the Los Angeles Kings in the ultra-tough Pacific Division and Ryan Getzlaf could use a strong two-way centre in support.
The Penguins tried to peddle a package that included centre Brandon Sutter, minor-league defenceman Simon Despres, but the Canucks wanted prospect blue-liner Derrick Pouliot included.
Philadelphia was also in the mix but the Canucks weren’t going to bite on a package with centre Brayden Schenn as the focal point. But centre Sean Couturier would certainly get the Canucks’ attention.
The Flyers have always coveted Kesler. In September 2006, he couldn’t come to contract terms and signed a one-year $1.9 million offer sheet from the Flyers that was matched by the Canucks. They were offering that much over two years. That’s how much the Flyers thought of Kesler at age 22.
And now with hard-rock coach Craig Berube behind the bench and management still in place, it’s hard to imagine the Flyers not taking a serious run at Kesler. He could not only help put them over the top in the wide-open Eastern Conference, at $5 million annually the next two years, Kesler isn’t just a bargain, he’s a steal.
“He’s a hard-working guy who’s tough to play against and plays in all situations,” Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise said of his Team USA Olympic teammate. “He’s a big-time player. A team that gets him it will be a great addition.”
Benning was asked about other developments and offered these comments Monday:
On whether Dan Bylsma is a candidate to replace John Tortorella:
The former Pittsburgh coach has interviewed in Florida and would be in the mix here with Texas Stars coach Willie Desjardins and Los Angeles Kings assistant John Stevens.
“We’re tied up this week with amateur and pro meetings (in Whistler) and next week we’re going to interview coaches. He (Bylsma) is a guy we’re going to have interest in as will a number of teams looking for a coach.”
On whether he’s looking to add to or alter his management or scouting staffs:
“I’m just getting to know everybody now. We’re going to assess what everybody does and try to figure out ways to get better. We’ll make those decisions later on.”
On whether he would tender a July 1 offer sheet to Columbus restricted free agent centre Ryan Johansen, a Port Moody product coming off a breakout 33-goal season:
“What ends up happening with that is, teams usually end up matching the offer sheet and you end up driving up the prices on the players. We’ll look at everything, but we probably won’t be doing offer sheets.”
On his assessment of first-year Utica Comets coach Travis Green:
“Everybody seems happy with the job he did down there. Nothing but positive things, I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to him yet but everything was real positive.”
On goalie interference topping GM meetings Wednesday in New York:
“It’s one of those topics that’s a touchy thing. Any time you have contact with the goalies, it’s something the league doesn’t want to happen and it’s almost like the QBs in football — they want to protect the goalie. So that will come up and we’ll deal with it.”
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