Kuzma: Expect the dominoes to fall in a big way if Kesler is dealt
Anaheim, Chicago the most serious suitors for Canucks centre
The scenario was presented to Jim Benning. It wasn’t rejected, but the response by the Vancouver Canucks general manager was measured because so much is at play.
Should Ryan Kesler waive his no-trade clause and move to a contending team of his choosing — the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks are serious suitors — then the dominoes could fall in a big way for Benning. If the Canucks secure the No. 10 overall pick from the Ducks as part of a package that would include a centre and winger, it would be a grand slam because Anaheim has two first-round selections, yet is loathe to part with No. 10. They’d be more willing to part with No. 24.
A No. 10 trade scenario for Kesler would then allow Benning to shop his No. 6 selection to the Florida Panthers in a package to acquire the No. 1 pick Friday in Philadelphia. The Panthers need wingers and defencemen and they might bite on prospect Hunter Shinkaruk.
But for the Panthers to take Jason Garrison back would probably mean taking salary back and ownership isn’t going down that road again. Garrison has four more years at a $4.6 million cap hit and the next two at $5 million and $4.5 million with $1.5 million bonuses respectively. That’s sticker shock.
However, if there was an agreeable package, it would set the stage for the Canucks to select North Vancouver centre Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice first overall and still allow Benning to grab a budding power forward at No. 10 in Jake Virtanen (LW, Calgary, WHL), Nick Ritchie (LW, Peterborough, OHL) or the slick (Nikolaj Ehlers, LW Halifax, QMJHL). Reinhart thinks he can play right away and those others might not be that far away.
“We’re talking to teams and we’re listening to teams,” said Benning, who has had two conversations with Panthers general manager Dale Tallon about the No. 1 pick and expects to have more leading up to the first day of the draft. “I understand what you’re saying and it (No. 10 pick) probably factors into the equation, right? We’re working hard to try and figure that out. We’re going staying on top of it.”
Then again, that No. 10 pick in a package is probably a dream scenario to some. One NHL source called it a “fantasy”. We’ll see.
A big question is what happened to the Pittsburgh Penguins? They chased Kesler hard at the deadline but have since fired their general manager and coach. Perhaps a change in direction with new general manager Jim Rutherford, but they may still be interested in Kesler.
For the former Selke Trophy winner, it’s never been about coaching in Vancouver — it’s been about the collective skill level. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where he’ll be content to start the season here. Who needs a drawn out Roberto Luongo 2.0 trade-watch circus?
“It’s between Ryan, myself and the agent working together to appease everybody in the situation,” added Benning. “Ryan is a real good player and an important part of this team. We’re working diligently.”
Landing the No. 24 pick from the Ducks could still mean flipping the No. 6 and selecting No. 1 and No. 24 or just hanging on to No. 6 knowing a coveted player should still be there. And if the Canucks have done their homework, they should get a good player at No. 24. Kesler was selected 23rd overall in 2003.
The Ducks and Blackhawks are asking the same question — how do we beat the Los Angeles Kings? — and either Ryan Getzlaf and Kesler or Jonathan Toews and Kesler would be a formidable one-two punch. Still, the Canucks said no to multiple offers from the Ducks at the trade deadline and the Blackhawks have but $4.6 million in cap space and fewer attractive assets to offer. They also need to sign Toews and Patrick Kane to rich extensions to avoid free agency next summer.
If the No. 10 pick is in play, the Ducks may only part with a centre and not a winger. Centre Emerson Etem, 22, played junior for Canucks coach Willie Desjardins in Medicine Hat. The Canucks are high on centre Rickard Rakell, 21, and restricted free agent winger Devante Smith-Pelly, 22, is also of interest if they choose to go the all-youth route.
The Ducks also have $22.4 million in cap space and can easily absorb Kesler’s contract that pays $5 million annually the next two years. Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden wasn’t biting on trade speculation about his former linemate.
“We’re working with Ryan and he’s got the assets that we want to have on this team,” said Linden. “Getting Willie done was so important and it really sets us up for a great week.”
He’s got that right. It’s one that shouldn’t lack for drama.
OF NOTE: The Canucks have reportedly extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev but not to Jordan Schroeder and Zac Dalpe.
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