The news we’ve been waiting on to break finally did, maybe somewhat ironically – considering the amount of digital ink that’s been spilled on it in the past handful of months – a tad bit earlier than we would’ve expected, a few hours before the 1st round of the 2014 entry draft gets underway.
After flexing his No Movement Clause muscles and limiting the trade market to just a few select teams, Ryan Kesler got what he wanted this afternoon with the only NHL team he has ever played for trading him to a division rival. Likewise, the Ducks got what they wanted; a legitimate option down the middle to play behind Ryan Getzlaf, solidifying what was a clear need for them if they wanted to truly have any shot of vying with the Western Conference’s elite.
They also managed to miraculously do so without parting ways with any of their top prospects, or even their top pick tonight. Which begs the question: were the Canucks the only one not to get what they wanted here?
It was undoubtedly a tough way for Jim Benning and Trevor Linden to make their first really consequential personnel decision since taking over the team, with the contract their predecessor signed Kesler to putting them in a bind. Despite their assertions otherwise, it seemed impossible to envision the franchise wanting to go through another elongated struggle with a star player, dragging on a full season past the point of no return for the two parties. So they had to act, and they had to act coming from a restrictive angle of leverage.
With that being said, it’s awfully difficult to get excited about the return they got for their 2nd best player. The package revolves around Nick Bonino, and appears to be similar to what was being offered to the Senators for Jason Spezza earlier in the summer. Back then Travis Yost wrote the defining article on Bonino, with this being the money shot:
That quote feels so Ottawa, I’m stunned it didn’t come directly from ownership or the front office through a local radio hit. Nick Bonino. Even if you assume there’s another valuable piece in there, you are talking about an absolute disaster if the return is centered around a third-line center.
And let’s not kid ourselves here. That’s what he is. He was riding the percentage-gods to the tune of 49-points last season, a year where a lot of things fell favorably for him. He’s a 47% career Corsi% player in which his team performs better with him off of the ice, and averages less shots per game in his career than Colin Greening by a fair margin. And, uh, he’s twenty-six.”
Oof. In all likelihood Bonino will wind up being a 2nd or 3rd option down the middle that needs to be sheltered, and can chip in on the power play. Not that there that isn’t any value in that.
As for Sbisa, he was once a highly regarded prospect; so much so that he was taken 19th overall in ’08 by the Flyers, before being traded to Anaheim in a package for Chris Pronger. While he’s still only 24, he really hasn’t shown any sort of tangible evidence that he’ll ever become what some people thought he would years ago. I’m always pro-taking a low risk shot on a former big name prospect that flamed out with his original team, but expectations in this particular case will need to be significantly tempered.
The 24th pick may very well be the most interesting component of the package, with there surely being some enticing names still hanging around at that point of the draft. Someone like Goldobin, Scherbak, or even Ho-Sang could conceivably be available, and there’s upside there. It could also be used as a trade chip were the team having thoughts of snatching the 1st overall pick from the Panthers.
The Canucks were always going to get worse as a team seeing as they were dealing away the best player involved, that much we’d come to terms with. The sad irony of the package they did wind up getting is that they were reportedly being offered a better one from the same team back at the deadline. Mike Gillis turned it down because he figured that more teams would be lining up for Kesler come the summer, and he wasn’t necessarily wrong. But what he didn’t account for was Kesler negating any benefits that may’ve come from that by dwindling his list of destinations down to just 2 or 3. There really wasn’t much Jim Benning could realistically do here, as it’s looking more and more like he was being bent over a barrel by things that were out of his control.
With this particular move the problem is that they seemingly didn’t better position themselves for future years. They also made a team in their own division substantially better, but by the time these Vancouver Canucks are even thinking about being considered contenders who knows what the Pacific Division landscape will even resemble?
It’s been 3 years since this happened, and that feels like it was an eternity ago. How long will the 3 years to come from this point on drag on for? At least the drama is over. For now.