Blackhawks: Would Ryan Kesler deal be worth the price?

Blackhawks: Would Ryan Kesler deal be worth the price?
June 21, 2014, 9:15 am
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Ryan Kesler’s days with the Vancouver Canucks are likely numbered. It’s not surprising to hear or read, given he was oh-so close to being dealt at the trade deadline this past spring. On Friday, a story out of Ottawa claimed Kesler has two desired destinations: the Chicago Blackhawks or the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But does it come down to just two teams? And if Chicago is a potential Kesler destination, what would it cost the Blackhawks to get the talented center? Let’s look at a couple of things here, shall we?

First, as much as the Ottawa report narrows it down to two teams, there are likely more suitors than that. Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province has written and talked extensively about the Kesler situation, which has been building for some time. As he says in his podcast earlier this week (he starts talking Kesler about 10 minutes into it), the Anaheim Ducks may be one of the top candidates to land the center. The Ducks have high draft picks and they have young centers/wingers that the Canucks will likely covet.

Hey, the Canucks are going to want something — or some things — in return for Kesler, and it’s going to have to be a strong package. They’re not in total rebuild mode; under new leadership now, the Canucks will likely want a few established players to get back into the postseason hunt next year.

The Blackhawks don’t have high first-round picks entering next weekend’s draft — their first selection is 27th overall. They obviously do have some great young players on their current roster (note we said current roster, because, as stated above, it’s more likely the Canucks want those guys, not prospects). But are the Blackhawks willing to part with those pieces, fill one hole in their lineup but open other ones in the process? The Blackhawks’ depth was solid again in 2013-14, but not like it was the previous season. They may be playing with fire giving up too much for one guy.

Here’s another concern: Kesler’s had his share of injuries in recent seasons. When Kesler is healthy, he’s a tremendous player. There’s no disputing that. He plays a hard-nosed game, which would be greatly appreciated by the Blackhawks, who could use the grit/talent combination. But Kesler’s suffered for playing that style. His recent injuries include a hip out of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final (he had surgery that offseason), shoulder and foot injuries in 2013 and a knee injury earlier this season. Can Kesler stay healthy over the next few seasons?

Kesler has two years remaining on his current deal, with a cap hit of $5 million each year. The Blackhawks have a little under $5 million in cap space (if the salary cap rises to the reported $71.1 million in 2014-15). They could fit Kesler in the next two seasons if they shed salary elsewhere, but remember: the Blackhawks are looking to re-up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and will need to work those raises into the cap starting in 2015-16.

As stated, Kesler is a tremendous player and could end the Blackhawks’ nonstop carousel at No. 2 center. He would have an instant chemistry with Kane, given their international play together in past Olympics. That’s all good. But there are always prices to pay. It just seems, for the Blackhawks, the move is not worth what the prices could be.