4: Trading Ryan Kesler
Ryan Kesler was a dynamic, game-changing powerhouse for the Canucks. He was also a thorn in Jim Benning’s side, as he made it very clear that he didn’t believe the team was capable of challenging for Stanley Cups, and that he wanted to play for a contender.
Despite being given a minuscule list of teams whom Kesler would accept a trade to — just the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks depending on which rumors you believe — Benning did well to secure the return that he did. Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and the Ducks’ 2014 first and third round picks were the assets squeezed out of the Canucks’ Pacific Division rivals.
In hindsight, the return was not particularly great, but the alternative would actually be much worse. Imagine having a physically-ruined Kesler on a $6.875 million AAV contract until the end of the 2021-22 season.
A Kesler who has produced just 22 points in his last 104 games, with a minus-23 rating. Then imagine being forced to protect him in the Vegas and Seattle expansions because he demanded a NMC. Things would have been a whole lot worse had we kept Kesler around.
The departure of Kesler saw a big headache removed from the Canucks’ locker room, and it gave the team a middle six center, a middle-pairing defenceman plus Jared McCann, whom the Canucks selected with that first round pick.
All things considered, this was a key moment in Benning’s early days as GM, and it went about as well as one could hope for given Kesler’s refusal to widen his list of potential destinations.