The way the looming NHL offseason is shaping up, the number of high-profile players available via trade seems to be on the rise. With this free agent class believed to be among the wearker ones in recent memory, with few real difference makers out there, most teams will likely be looking for a trade to make a bigger summer splash.
One such player who could garner a lot of interest on the trade market is forward Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks. The two-time U.S. Olympian and former Selke Trophy winner has informed new Vancouver GM Jim Benning that he would still like to be traded, according to Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada.
The 29-year-old Kesler was a big trade chip near the deadline after reportedly demanding a trade from former GM Mike Gillis, but the Canucks were unable to make a deal. That seemed like a lost opportunity at the time. The Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins rumored to be the favorites to acquire the two-way centerman.
Things could pick up between now and the NHL Draft as teams reevaluate their previous season. With Kesler under contract for two more years and recent highly-productive campaigns under his belt, he's going to garner a lot of interest.
This will probably end up being the first major move of Benning's career as an NHL GM. He'll need to get a strong return for Kesler as the Canucks look to restructure their lineup in the wake of a disastrous season that saw Vancouver's goaltending left in shambles, head coach John Tortorella fired and no postseason appearance.
Getting an everyday player, plus some prospects or draft picks to fill the pipeline seems fair enough for the Canucks, but Benning really can't settle for anything less than great. Teams know Kesler wants out, which is going to complicate his value, but that's not Benning's problem so long as he doesn't settle for something below actual value.
For most teams, Kesler would be an ideal No. 2 center to take on tough defensive assignments, while adding scoring pop and bringing an abrasive game that seems to rub a lot of teams the wrong way.
Kesler had 25 goals and 43 points in 77 games last year.