The Vancouver Canucks turned $1 into 3 quarters in the Kesler trade
This summer, Ryan Kesler discovered the magic of wanting out of town while having a no-move clause. He was able to dictate to his team where he wanted to go, which left new Canucks’ GM Jim Benning with almost zero leverage to demand anything significant as a return on his disgruntled center. You get to pick your team and limit it from getting plundered? Those no-move clauses seem fun.
Kesler went to the Anaheim Ducks for 26-year-old forward Nick Bonino, 24-year-old D-man Luca Sbisa, and the 24th overall pick. (They’re also swapping third rounders, but you don’t really care about that.)
From the Canucks view:
Vancouver was limited to Kesler’s list of a whopping two teams (Anaheim and Chicago). That meant their return was always going to be a bit underwhelming.
Benning acquired 6’2” defenseman Luca Sbisa who, when healthy, can be a pretty solid second-pair defenseman. He got a center in Nick Bonino who proved he could score in college and the American League before breaking through last season with a 50-point NHL campaign (granted, on a team that scored a ton). And they got another first rounder they’ll probably flip as part of a package to move up in the draft.
It’s worth noting that Bonino’s contract is a dream at $1.9 million per until 2017, so the Canucks also gain cap space, which in today’s NHL is an asset in itself. Even with Sbisa’s deal ($2.175m next season before becoming an RFA) the Canucks are ahead of the $5 million they were giving Kesler. It’s possible they’ll now be able to package a guy like Jason Garrison (more cap space) with that first-round pick I mentioned earlier to help them climb in the draft.
(Update: Jason Garrison was traded to Tampa Bay for the 50th overall pick, the rights to Jeff Costello and a 7th rounder in 2015. Seems they really wanted that cap space. Nice pick up for Tampa Bay, who needed help on D.)
That’s not the “haul” many fans thought they’d get for the gritty six-time 20-plus goal scoring Kesler (scoring 20-plus on the Canucks last year was a monumental feat, given their inability to generally put pucks in nets), but it’s not entirely awful.
From the Ducks view:
It’s about getting out of the notoriously brutal Western Conference. Anaheim has been terrific in the regular season, but they’re trying to take that next step, which means besting the two other giants in California, San Jose and Los Angeles. A 1-2 punch at center of Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler gives them a better chance of getting to the Final.
The Ducks have done a great job accruing young assets over the years which allowed them to make a move like this - they still have Devante Smith-Pelly, Emerson Etem, Kyle Palmieri and Jakub Silfverberg as good young forwards to help them out going forward.
To top it off, Kesler’s deal is a great one - $5 million per for two seasons is a steal.
So, who “won” the deal?
Anaheim. Anytime you can turn three quarters into a dollar you’ve improved significantly. It’s really not that tough to find mid-level talent in the NHL, which they parted with. The same can’t be said for acquiring difference-makers like Kesler, the best player in the deal.
It’s possible that Bonino builds on last season and becomes a solid second/third line contributor. It’s possible Sbisa finds his stride and stays healthy. But those are both pretty substantial “what ifs” to lose a known entity like Kesler.
My guess is the Canucks aren’t done yet this weekend, and between the draft and free agency, they have a plan to improve beyond this one trade. In the knee-jerk reaction phase, they lost this trade. But that perception could change if the plan extends beyond it.