The long-awaited Ryan Kesler trade has finally happened, with the unhappy center heading to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, the 24th overall pick (Jared McCann) and a third-round pick.
Strictly in terms of value, it’s a win for the Ducks. Kesler adds another big name to a forward core that already boasts the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He will provide a defensive presence down the middle that Anaheim has plainly missed for the last several seasons.
The Ducks went to Game 7 with the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings in the second round, so this is hardly an example of a team making a big move because it absolutely has to. Anaheim was on the precipice of being among the Cup favorites as things stood even before the trade. The road to the Western Conference Final for any Pacific Division team will almost certainly run through the Kings, whose center depth is the envy of the rest of the NHL and constituted their primary advantage over Anaheim during the two teams’ playoff series a month and a half ago. Kesler significantly narrows the difference between L.A. and the Ducks in that respect.
Bonino is a solid young player, but if he’s the main piece in a deal for a player of Kesler’s ilk, the trigger needs to be pulled without a second thought. Bob Murray has a potential steal on his hands here; Kesler is perhaps the best nominal No. 2 center in the league other than Evgeni Malkin, and should supply some fantastic scoring depth and own-zone play for the Ducks.
If Kesler can stay healthy and the Ducks can find steady goaltending, Bruce Boudreau doesn’t have any more excuses for not getting over the postseason hump.