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Numbers Game: Canucks send Kesler to Ducks

Scott Cullen
6/27/2014 4:19:26 PM
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The Vancouver Canucks unloaded an unhappy veteran centre, acquiring three assets in return as new GM Jim Benning starts off his tenure with a major trade.

Numbers Game examines the Anaheim Ducks acquiring Ryan Kesler.

The Ducks Get: C Ryan Kesler and a third-round pick in 2015.

Kesler, 29, has been a very good two-way centre for most of the past seven seasons, scoring at least 20 goals in all six full seasons while missing 31 games during the lockout-shortened 2013 season. He scored 25 goals last season while playing a career-high 21:49 per game, and while Kesler didn't match the outstanding possession numbers he had from 2009 through 2012, he still had positive possession numbers despite facing high quality opposition and starting more of his shifts in the defensive zone, qualities that put him with a sound group of two-way forwards.

Holding a no-trade clause, Kesler had control over the situation and that limited Vancouver's options. In Anaheim, Kesler slides into the second-line spot, behind Ryan Getzlaf, and Kesler's presence may even free-up Getzlaf a little bit more -- as Getzlaf typically faces a high calibre of opposition with more defensive zone starts. If Kesler takes some of that responsibility, it may allow Getzlaf to get more favourable offensive matchups.

While Kesler is a pretty effective shooter, 9.9% or above every year since 2006-2007, his on-ice shooting percentage (which includes the shooting of all others on the ice with him at 5on-5) was his lowest in that span last season, when he played primarily with Chris Higgins on left wing and then a rotating cast of right wingers. The positive of that is that, statistically, he's likely to have better luck next year, in terms of other players' shooting percentage, so there may be room for a boost in Kesler's production. The Ducks have a variety of young wingers that will be bucking for playing time and a couple of Patrick Maroon, Jakob Silfverberg, Kyle Palmieri, Matt Beleskey, Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly should have a shot to play on Kesler's wings.

Anticipating some boost in Kesler's production operates on the assumption that he will be getting first-unit power play time because Bonino held that spot with the Ducks last season. For as much as Kesler's reputation is built on being a two-way player who can check the opposition's best forwards, he's also been a productive triggerman on the Vancouver power play, ranking among the leaders in power play goals per minute of 5-on-4 play over the past five seasons.

Kesler, in addition to being a valuable two-way forward, also comes at a reasonable cost for a veteran player. He has two years remaining on his contract, with a $5-million cap hit. If he plays well over the next couple seasons, there may be a decent chance to get him extended or re-signed, considering that Kesler virtually hand-picked his trade destination.

The third-round pick offers about a 30% of chance of netting an NHLer, with maybe a six or seven percent chance of yielding a top-six forward, top-four defenceman or starting goaltender.

The Canucks Get: C Nick Bonino, D Luca Sbisa, a first-round and third-round pick..

Bonino is a 26-year-old centre coming off a career year, in the first full season that he's played in the NHL. Bonino's 22 goals and 49 points were solid showings, tied for 75th and 72nd, respectively and he scored 20 points on the power play.

Bonino has not typically faced tough opposition and has always started more shifts in the offensive zone, yet his possession numbers haven't been very good. He was just below break-even last season for the Ducks, but was productive, in part, because he had a high on-ice shooting percentage, which makes Bonino something of a mirror image of Kesler, more likely to see his production fall. He's not as good, but there was no chance the Ducks were getting a better centre in exchange for a player with a no-trade clause that wanted to be moved out of town.

That said, Bonino is an okay option as a second or third-line centre for the Canucks. An inexpensive option for a rebuilding team, signed for three more years at a total cost of $5.7-million, a very reasonable $1.9-million cap hit.

Sbisa, 24, was well on his way to a signficant role before he was bypassed on the Ducks' depth chart this season. In the previous two years, he had played all but nine games and was up to a career-high 19:50 average time on ice per game last season. The first-round pick of the Flyers in 2008 appeared to be making progress, but then he sprained his ankle in training camp, and later tore tendon in his hand. Those two injuries cost him 41 games and the Ducks had new defencemen -- Ben Lovejoy, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen -- pull ahead of Sbisa on the depth chart.

So, while Sbisa hasn't really established that he can handle a big role, it's not unreasonable for the Canucks to put him on their third pairing next year to see if he can get back on track. Sbisa is under contract for one more season, at a cap hit of $2.175-million, after which he will be a restricted free agent.

The 24th pick in the draft has typically yielded an NHL player 70% of the time, with a top-six forward, top-four defenceman or starting goaltender 25% of the time.

The third-round pick was subsequently moved to the New York Rangers, to acquire veteran winger Derek Dorsett. Dorsett is a 27-year-old who is a willing scrapper, but has also played some tough minutes in a checking role over the past three seasons, with a lot of defensive zone starts.

Dorsett is in the final year of a deal that brings a cap hit of $1.633-million. He will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Will the Canucks be just as good without Ryan Kesler? Not likely. Does this move put them in a decent position going forward, in terms of having assets that they can use to re-shape the team? For sure. Big changes have begun in Vancouver and the first steps may be back before they are in position to move ahead.

For the Ducks, they've raised exectations with the addition of Kesler. They lost in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champs and, justifiably, made a move to improve their odds next season by getting a player that they tried to acquire before the trade deadline last season.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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