The Ryan Kesler-to-Pittsburgh rumors just won't go away, so let's get some of that SEO gravy train while the gettin's good!
Much has been made of a possible deal of late, including such revelations as:
- The Penguins were apparently in on Kesler as early as the weeks leading up to the Olympic break, offering a package centered on forward Brandon Sutter and prospect defenseman Derrick Pouliot.
- That deal was reportedly pulled when news broke of Kris Letang's stroke, an unfortunate bit of news for Letang and the Penguins which, peripherally, made Pouliot's value as a puck-moving offensive defenseman suddenly less expendable.
- A few other Eastern Conference clubs are said to be in on Kesler, with Pittsburgh's latest offer including some combination of Sutter, a prospect defenseman and one or two draft picks.
We've heard plenty of talk about Kesler from the regular Penguins channels, but let's get over ourselves. What does Vancouver have to say about the potential loss of its minutes leader and second-line center?
From Harrison Mooney, Pass It to Bulis:
I'm surprisingly okay with a Ryan Kesler trade, I think because this entire season has allowed it to gradually dawn on me that the Canucks are no longer a contender, and would be smart to start making moves with an eye towards three years from now, rather than three years ago.
(Perhaps this was the gambit... all along? After all, according to [Louis] Jean, the trade request dates back to the start of the season. Maybe the Canucks decided to play mediocre hockey for months, to really massage the fan base into a place where they were okay with this? Oh, that's sweet, Canucks. You're so good to us.)
And with all this talk of how their window is about to close, the right Kesler trade changes the conversation to how their window is about to open. There are definitely some guys out there the Canucks could turn up that would brighten their future the way well-placed mirrors and some task lighting brighten up a room.
Pittsburgh's Cup window is still wide open, and Vancouver's appears to be closing. Acquiring a center of Kesler's caliber would help to put Pittsburgh back on equal footing with the Boston Bruins in the East.
So how could it be easy for Vancouver to part with him?
If the reboot is indeed on, as Mooney as others seem to have embraced, then moving Kesler could keep the team competitive in the distant and not-too-distant futures. San Jose went through a similar recycling of talent last season, and managed to seamlessly transition from being a great team led by veterans to a great team led by its young talent when a period of mediocrity was expected to take place.
Vancouver would understandably rather takes the Sharks route to roster reloading than do the whole tear-down-and-start-anew that we've seen from others. That might mean parting with Kesler, an extremely productive player who is nonetheless inching closer towards the peak of his trade value.
Of course, given Kesler's reported trade demands, there is a belief that Vancouver may not have a choice but to deal him no matter what the pull.
As Mooney would remind us,
[The Canucks] may not have a choice [but to deal Kesler]? Pardon my netspeak, but LOLZ. That's what people said about Roberto Luongo, and that dude was on the bench last night (which seemed a bit weird, to be honest, but we're getting sidetracked).
This final quote comes from the same piece, and perhaps is the most interesting bit of all.
Speaking of Gillis, after this report, one wonders what's going on in the Canucks' front office that important players keep asking for trades. These requests are becoming alarmingly annual. But I digress.
Part of what makes Kesler so valuable to the Pens is the belief that he would replace Jordan Staal's outsized productivity as a third-line center -- eating big minutes, manning the first penalty kill and generally making life hell for an opponent's top forwards.
Kesler has the goods to match what Staal brought to the ice. If the Pens are as interested as reported, however, it could partly be because of what Kesler would bring to the locker room.
From Daniel Wagner, Pass It to Bulis:
We've seen how important depth at centre has been for past Cup winners and Kesler does more than most centres, playing a shutdown role, a scoring role and, occasionally, both at the same time. He's also the emotional core of the team, giving the type of night-in-night-out effort that has endeared him to Canucks fans and vilified him for everyone else.
Removing Kesler from the lineup would seem to rip the heart right out of the team.
It's been said aplenty that Pittsburgh seems to enjoy a country clubbish atmosphere within its locker room. Sustained success and a business-like approach from the team's management, coaches and roster leaders will have that effect.
Pittsburgh attempted to instill a veteran insurgency last season in acquiring Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow, former captains and grizzled tough-types who figured to set the tone in the locker room. Pittsburgh had hoped they would shake things up similar to the way Bill Guerin upset the locker room status quo, to great effect, in 2009.
Iginla and Morrow failed to produce such unrest. Perhaps Kesler could have better luck bringing fire to a locker room which has admittedly lost its sense of urgency in recent weeks.
It wouldn't, on its own, fix the black hole of possession that is the team's bottom-six forward group outside of Sutter. But it's nothing to overlook, either.
So, how did we get here in the first place?
It's the trade deadline! Rumors and trade talk abound. The Pensblog and Mike Colligan were the first Pittsburgh voices to pick up on the idea, while others in the know have confirmed (and we won't take contradicting statements from Vancouver management and Kesler's agent as reason that these reports shouldn't be confirmed -- their protestations are PR 101) that Kesler was indeed seeking a way out of town. The rumors have been corroborated by plenty others, so all that remains to be seen is whether the deal actually comes to fruition, or if Vancouver GM Mike Gillis keeps another unhappy camper in the fold.
However, it does beg the question of how such sensitive information reaches us, the mouth-breathing public, in the first place.
From Cam Charron, Canucks Army:
But the key here is that Louis Jean [reporter, TVA Sports] only has this information because somebody wanted him to have this information. Perhaps it's a rival general manager wanting to lubricate the wheels on forcing a deal through, or even somebody inside the Canucks front office who, upset that negotiations stalled with Pittsburgh, wants to pick up other interested suitors.
If this is the case, it wouldn't be the first time a team used the media to leverage its own trade prospects (or, conversely, frag a rival team's chances of landing a high-value asset).
The Pittsburgh Penguins seemingly showed their hand to the table by allowing the details of their Kesler offer to Vancouver leak out. But why?
My guess is it's not enough. The Canucks are trading their best player and need to get a hefty haul in return to stay competitive. From Pittsburgh, that probably means Derrick Pouliot is part of the deal. From Philadelphia, that probably means Sean Couturier. From Detroit, that probably means Gustav Nyqvist.
If the Penguins aren't willing to put Pouliot on the table - and I don't think they should - then they've drawn their line in the sand. Their offer is out there and it's up to Philadelphia, Detroit, or another team to top it.
Think back to the deals the Penguins swung last spring. Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Doulas Murray -- did anyone see those deals coming?
It's easy enough to see how those players filled potential needs on the Penguins roster, but those deals came together far quicker and far more quietly than the prying eyes of the hockey community promise to make any deal for Kesler.
Unless Kesler wields his no-trade clause for all it's worth in order to land specifically in Pittsburgh, a la Iginla, something between the Penguins' reported interest in Kesler and the very public nature of their interest just doesn't add up.
As far as a potential deal goes, the group that would go to Vancouver in return for Kesler is reportedly headed by Brandon Sutter, the team's current third-line center.
Sutter is having a down year in 2013-14. His linemates this season started on the order of passable and have lately been nothing short of abysmal.
No team in the NHL sees such a desperate drop in the offensive success of its top-six to the ineptitude of its bottom-six as the Penguins, and there's every reason to believe it will prevent the team from getting back to the Cup Finals, if even that far.
Sutter is not the primary culprit for those numbers. But some in Vancouver aren't giving him a pass for the state of his linemates.
From Dimitri Filipovic, Canucks Army:
A few weeks ago it came to my attention that the Canucks and Penguins had discussed a potential deal for Kesler, which broke off at the last minute prior to the trade freeze accompanying the Olympic break. The rumored return was Brandon Sutter and Simon Despres, which at first glance struck me as not being nearly enough. After doing some more digging, I can say that it's definitely not enough.
The irony of that deal is that the Penguins were in the exact same spot as the Canucks a while back, and it's how they got Sutter in the first place. To go along with the two prospect defensemen they got from the Hurricanes, they also received Brandon Sutter, who was supposed to jump right into Staal's spot as the 3rd center behind Crosby and Malkin. He was the 11th overall pick back in '07, and had shown that he could handle the tough minutes reasonably well during his time in Carolina.
Unfortunately for both him and the Penguins, he has been a total tire-fire during his time in Pittsburgh. Most players that boast a sub-40 OZ start % and a Corsi Rel QoC of nearly 1.500 aren't expected to have good possession data. So he was given something of a free pass for being a 42.4% corsi player.
But this year... he has been a trainwreck. He's actually still at a 42.4 corsi for %, but the problem is that it has come during significantly softer minutes (up to 43.5 OZ start %, playing tertiary competition). A potential excuse for him is that his two most common linemates this year have been Tanner Glass and Chris Conner (?), and while that's certainly valid, if he's the player that he was touted as being then he should still have better numbers. It's as simple as that.
We're going to have an answer on this whole situation by Wednesday's deadline. For now, it's good to get a look at how the other half perceives such a possible deal.
All that's left to find out is whether Shero and the Penguins breadcrumbed a hefty enough trade package to trick the Flyers into another round of roster upheaval.
Tuesday Slew is some commentary jargon that runs Tuesdays throughout the season. Or other days. I'm on twitter.