The first major trade chip surrounding the NHL Entry Draft is on the move. Ryan Kesler has been traded to the Anaheim Ducks. The now former Vancouver Canucks forward was believed to be one of the most sought-after trade targets out there after he had requested a trade earlier last season.
The Canucks will receive forward
So this is a massive deal for the Ducks and while they gave up a fair amount in quantity for Kesler, they probably are immediately getting better without sacrificing much quality.
The two-way center with a Selke Trophy and 40-goal season in his past is a perfect guy to slot in behind first-line center Ryan Getzlaf. It also takes a lot of pressure off of the Ducks' top line that carried the mail offensively for the season.
Kesler had a no-trade clause, so he had to approve a deal and it looks like he'll be headed to a divisional rival.
The Ducks are letting go of a once-promising defenseman in Sbisa who has battled injuries and hasn't quite lived up to his first-round draft selection. He has one year remaining on his deal with a $2.175 million cap hit.
Bonino, meanwhile, grew into a quality second-line player, putting up 22 goals and 49 points for the Ducks last season. The good news is that he is cheap for multiple years. He comes with a $1.9 million cap hit until 2016-17.
Getting another first-round draft pick is also a key piece to the deal. Even though this is a weaker draft, the Canucks give themselves a little more flexibility with two picks in Thursday night's first round. They can take a bit of a swing for a high-risk, high-reward type player at No. 24 if they so choose. They could also package both of their first rounders this year in a deal to either move up in the draft or find a roster player from another club.
It's hard to see where, if at all, the Canucks made a clear improvement to their roster, though. Losing Kesler leaves a hole that Bonino is probably not up to filling just yet, even though he's showing signs of promise offensively. Meanwhile, Sbisa is a bit of a wild card and that first-round pick could turn into anything at this point. The deal has potential, though, so it can't be termed as a bust just yet. But while there is potential, there is plenty of risk.
The Canucks' hands were tied a bit as Kesler weilded a lot of power in terms of where he would accept a trade to. That limited market likely limited Vancouver's ability to get a max return.
But really, it's hard to ignore how much better the Ducks are getting by adding a strong veteran center in Kesler. Having him as part of a one-two punch with Getzlaf is big. Though the 29-year-old Kesler has battled injuries, he has been a consistent 20-plus goal scorer while providing high level defense (though that may be starting to decline a bit).
That defensive play will be important with a young defensive corps and even younger goaltending tandem.
Kesler still has two years on his deal with a more-than-reasonable $5 million cap hit and the Ducks are nowhere close to the ceiling so they can continue to add if they want.
With the competition out there for his services, it appears the Ducks did extremely well in giving away a lot, but not too much.