How the Vancouver Canucks' new management team will handle Ryan Kesler, the club's disgruntled leading scorer who reportedly requested a trade last season, is the single biggest question facing the organization this summer. For a club that has a head coaching vacancy still to fill, owns the No. 6 overall pick at the 2014 NHL Entry draft, and has two untested goaltenders on the roster; that's saying something.
To keep Kesler, or to trade him, is a uniquely existential question for the club, even if the decision is - in part - Kesler's to make. It's a decision that promises to provide a glimpse at the core of what new team president Trevor Linden and new general manager Jim Benning see as their primary goal: playoff revenue, or icing a serious Stanley Cup contender.
At his introductory press conference Benning suggested that he'd do everything within his power to retain Kesler's services. Last week he suggested that the organization and Kesler's agent Kurt Overhardt were "still going back and forth" on the former Selke-winner's future.
Then on Tuesday afternoon, in perhaps the strongest indication yet that the club would prefer to keep the U.S. Olympian, Benning told fans that, "We're going to figure out a solution that keeps him happy and us happy." Benning also said that he'd had "preliminary conversations" with Kesler, who is in Vancouver at the moment, according to the Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford.
This situation is still probably up in the air, but the team's posture would suggest that their chips are in the middle of the table: they want Kesler in the fold next season. The organization has made season ticket renewals fully refundable through the first week of July, and it would seem an enormous business risk to make this much noise about patching things up with Kesler, only to deal him at, or ahead of, the NHL Entry Draft.