The Ryan Kesler question is perhaps the central challenge facing new Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning early on in his tenure with the club.
Kesler is a former Selke winning center and 40-goal scorer who is about to turn 30-years-old. While Kesler remains an elite penalty-killer and a reliable 20 goal scorer, he seems to have lost the top-end of his fast ball. He also reportedly requested a trade at the NHL trade deadline, and is believed to be willing to accept an offseason deal to one of at least six possible destinations this summer.
When Benning was introduced to fans and media in Vancouver late last week, he spoke as if retaining Kesler's services was a priority. This week, in an appearance on the Brady and Walker show on Sportsnet 590 the Fan on Friday, Benning updated the status of his negotiations with the disgruntled two-way forward.
"I touched base with the agent, and with Ryan yesterday," Benning answered in response to a question about Kesler's trade request. "We're still going back and forth on that. We're going to listen to Ryan. We're going to have a good, open, honest communication. Where it leads to, at this point, I don't know, but we've had open communication with him and his agent."
That is mostly a non-answer from Benning, but it doesn't exactly sound like Kesler will prove easy for Vancouver's new management team to bring back into the fold.
Kesler has two-years at $5 million remaining on his current contract, a reasonable figure for an effective if oft-injured two-way center. With a dearth of center talent on the unrestricted free-agent market, Kesler will likely prove to be a heavily sought after commodity on the trade market this summer if he is made available.