Ryan Kesler stays put with ‘cautious’ Canucks
Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler. (REUTERS)
After moving Roberto Luongo just a day earlier, there were expectations the Vancouver Canucks' floodgates could open Wednesday.
With Ryan Kesler as one of the most coveted players on the trade market — and with rumours abound — the Canucks made one move, and it had nothing to do with their star centre.
Instead, Vancouver dealt defenceman Raphael Diaz, who they had acquired about a month earlier from the Montreal Canadiens for Dale Weise, to the New York Rangers for a fifth-round pick.
That's it folks. Kesler is still around, Alex Edler is still with the team, so is everyone else.
That comes after general manager Mike Gillis said the team was in the stages of "re-tooling" after moving Luongo on Tuesday. But the next day, with potential to add more assets — present or future — the Canucks held off until the last second to discard a depth blueliner in Diaz.
"We were very cautious," said Gillis, adding they had calls from a lot of different teams for a lot of different situations. "We have very high expectations in Vancouver and our fans have very high expectations, but none of the possibilities fit our expectations today.
"If it wasn't going to fit with our long-range plans about how to build this team to the level that we expect, we weren't going to do it. We didn't get anything today that we thought we could do that would do that."
In other words, there's no immediate help coming. With the team having lost 10 of their last 11 games — and another important Western Conference matchup looming Thursday against the Dallas Stars — the Canucks failed to improve.
Daniel Sedin is on injured reserve and when his return will be is uncertain, with a report saying he's out a minimum of three weeks.
The club has scored eight goals in the last eight games and were recently shutout against the Phoenix Coyotes, who have given up the fifth most goals in the conference. But nothing was done about that Wednesday, at least not on the trade market.
Then again, Vancouver's big move was already made a day earlier with the Luongo deal and bringing on centre Shawn Matthias and goalie Jacob Markstrom.
All eyes though were on whether Kesler would follow Luongo out the door — with the Pittsburgh Penguins the main suitor — but for now, he will remain with the only organization that he's ever been with, at least for the rest of this season.
"It's been a tough couple of days, glad it's behind me now," Kesler told reporters in Phoenix. "Good thing I listened to (Luongo). Said even if I wanted out, it wasn't gonna happen. I'm happy that I'm still a Canuck."
Since being drafted 23rd overall by the Canucks in 2003, the two-way centre has gone on to win the Selke Trophy in 2011, put together a 41 goal season, and represent the team at an NHL All-Star game. But the last few years have been a little more bumpy at times for the 29-year-old. He's dealt with his fair share of injuries — hip surgery, shoulder, broken foot — and besides his award-winning season, he has failed to get more than 26 goals in a campaign and has never gotten more than 80 points.
This year, his desire to leave town came to light, something that may have been exacerbated when he was stripped of the assistant captain tag by head coach John Tortorella and for a time, moved to the wing instead of a more familiar centre spot. Not to mention that the team has failed time and time again to bring in a bona fide winger for him to play on a line with.
But he's denied that he wants out. And of course, now that he's still with the squad, he most likely won't change from that stance. Then again, according to one TSN analyst, the Canucks could be in store for a "grumpy Kesler" the rest of the way.
At the moment, he leads the Canucks with 21 goals through 63 games to go with his 18 assists.
After this season, the Livonia, MI., native has two years left on a six-year $30-million deal, which would still make him very coveted come the summer, especially at the NHL draft.
"We'll try to get into the playoffs here, and get this team playing the way it should play," Gillis said. "We'll talk about the summer when the season is over."
As for Diaz, the pending unrestricted free agent played just six games with the Canucks, scoring once and adding an assist.