One of the biggest names in the NHL trade rumor mill is that of Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler. The American center has become frustrated in Vancouver, as the team appears to be trending downwards ever since their Stanley Cup Finals loss in 2011. Many thought Kesler would be dealt before this past season’s trade deadline, but the day came and went with the Canucks standing pat.
Now, the market for Kesler is again heating up, with a couple front-runners vying for his services. One of the most popular picks to make a deal for the Canuck is the Chicago Blackhawks. Already one of the league’s best teams, acquiring Kesler would solidify Chicago as a powerhouse.
But, will they end up swinging a deal for the former Selke-winning forward?
First of all, Kesler has the Blackhawks listed as one of the teams he’d be willing to play for, so that’s a necessary step. And why wouldn’t they be? The team was a crushing Game 7 loss away from playing for their second consecutive Stanley Cup. Kesler has spent the past two Olympics on the US team with Patrick Kane, and has openly stated how much he loves playing with the Chicago winger. If he’s looking to contend for a Cup, Kesler would be wise to consider the Blackhawks.
As for Chicago, falling short of the Cup Finals in such heartbreaking fashion was quite a blow. They know they need to make a move that can push them over the edge in a very competitive Western Conference. Kesler would give them a much-needed second-line center, as well as an abundance of two-way forwards that would make any team envious.
Again, though, can Chicago get a deal done? One thing’s for sure; if they’re as interested as the rumors say, they’ll need to free up some cap space. They have a handful of players coming into the final years of their respective contracts, such as Johnny Oduya, Nick Leddy and Brandon Saad. However, are these players the Blackhawks would be OK losing? Both Oduya and Leddy play on the blue line, and while Kesler would add a defensive presence, is it worth leaving a couple holes on the back end? Saad showed marked improvement in his second full season in the league, but would the Blackhawks be willing to sacrifice this for the sake of adding Kesler?
Another thing playing a big factor here is the team’s two marquee players, Kane and captain Jonathan Toews. Chicago’s front office has been adamant about keeping both forwards in the Windy City for a long time, but they, too, are coming in to their last year under contract. So, if the Blackhawks are indeed as interested in dealing for Kesler as it sounds, they have to leave enough room for his deal while still allowing themselves space to resign Kane and Toews. As tempting it would be to add Kesler into the mix, you have to believe Chicago wouldn’t do it if it increased the risk of not resigning one of their franchise cornerstones.
The Blackhawks aren’t the only team after Kesler, as both the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins are in the mix as well. Chicago is obviously an ideal destination for any player seeking a Stanley Cup, and Kesler would be a huge addition for the team. But the Blackhawks have a lot to consider if they indeed want to make a push, and need to weigh the risks and rewards before putting together a deal they think would sway Vancouver.