Ryan Kesler and R.J. Umberger were teammates at the hockey hotbed known as The Ohio State University. While they were on the same team, they weren’t exactly close buddies. When Umberger was trying to ink a deal with the same Vancouver Canucks that Kesler was skating with his agent used the public spotlight to badmouth Kesler’s deal with Vancouver in order to get Umberger more money. The badmouthing worked for no one as Umberger ended up signing with the Philadelphia Flyers and a level of vitriol developed between the two players.
It was this hatred from Kesler that had him nixing even the notion of joining the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline where he’d have to be teammates with Umberger again. With Umberger returning to the Flyers via trade, the Jackets in the market for a second-line center and Kesler on the block, could this set the stage for Kesler returning to the Buckeye State?
The Jackets have the trade assets Vancouver seeks and will surely be looking to make a splash in the wake of their second ever playoff appearance, but is Kesler the guy? The answer is an unquestioned “yes”.
With Ryan Johansen establishing himself as an elite NHL player, having a veteran like Kesler to anchor the second line can be critical. Kesler blocks shots, kills penalties and is a defensive ace in addition to his offensive output, and this multi-faceted approach to the game makes him the perfect fit for the Blue Jackets. A line of Kesler with the newly acquired Scott Hartnell and Nathan Horton on the wings would give defensemen around the league nightmares. It’s also worth noting that if a playoff rematch with the Pittsburgh Penguins were to occur, Kesler’s defensive acumen and Brandon Dubinsky‘s innate ability to frustrate Sidney Crosby would make such a series really worth watching.
Given that Kesler via his no-trade clause controls his final destination it would surely take some coaxing to bring him to Columbus. His brand of hockey fitting the Jackets’ style like a glove and Columbus being a team on the rise should be what gets him on board. Having said that, showing a hated rival the door surely put Columbus on the map for the former U.S. Olympian.