What’s Ryan Kesler Really Worth?
Since being drafted by Vancouver in 2003 Ryan James Kesler has become a valuable member of his team. He is currently in the last year of his contract, this season he will earn $1,750,00 .If he is unable to negotiate a new deal prior to July 1st 2010 he will be a restricted free agent. At which point if the Canucks are still interested in his services they will have to issue Kesler with a qualifying offer. If Kesler accepted the offer he will remain a Vancouver player. However he can turn the qualifying offer down then he could sign an offer sheet from another team. He could also contest the first offer and elect for salary arbitration, like Kyle Wellwood chose to during the past off-season. If he fails to secure a deal he will be added to the free agency list and then teams will have to battle for the right to employ him.
Most people would be very surprised if this was to be Kesler’s final year donning the Canucks uniform. A few weeks ago assistant GM Laurence Gilman said in an interview on radio station the Team 1040, that management hope to resign Kesler. Of course Kesler wont be the only player the team will try and resign, the free agent list contains such players as Mitchell, Raymond, Hansen and Glass to name but a few. Mike Gillis and his staff may also hope to keep the aforementioned player’s on the payroll.
Kesler made his Vancouver debut in a 2-1 loss against Toronto on November 24th 2003. Since then his role on the team has changed. Initially he spent time as a shut down center with the likes of Alex Burrows. He is clearly very skilled at playing a more defensive style; some believe that he is more suited to the defensive aspect of the game. That said last season he proved he is very capable of producing offensively, scoring 26 goals playing on the wing with Sundin and Pavol Demitra. He is still only 25 with more experience it’s likely he will develop his talent even further.
When you look at the Canucks roster it is somewhat difficult to find superstar forwards, it can be debated as to whether a player of that caliber exists on this team. If you look past the Sedin twins there are few major offensive producers, especially in terms of goal scorers. While Kesler is a very proficient player will he be able to score 26 goals again this season? He last scored a goal on November 1st; he currently has 5 goals 19 assists and 24 points.
Next July players like Marleau, Jokinen, Savard and Toews will all be free agents. Those said players all have the ability to score 30 plus goals a season, and would be able to play on either the first or second lines. Some of the above players may command larger salaries than Kesler would, Vancouver may also have to find ways to free cap space to accommodate players of that ilk.
One possible way to reduce players’ salaries could be done by not renewing Willie Mitchell’s contract, relieving the team of his current $3,500,000 salary hit, he probably would be expecting an increase in earnings. Adding those types of centers to the roster would mean taking a gamble for Vancouver, but it could prove to be a very positive move. Lets not forget Keslers will be looking for a substantial pay rise so even resigning him will undoubtedly mean taking a risk.
There is also no guarantee he will want to resign in Vancouver if, the Canucks fail to make an appearance in the playoffs he could possibly start to look elsewhere. There is the potential that Mike Gillis could consider trading Kesler around February or at the trade deadline. If Vancouver are struggling down the stretch and are desperate to make the post season, a trade deal involving Kesler and Cory Schneider for example, may perhaps be a reality. Come March there could well be a myriad a teams battling to make the 8th spot in their conference, few of them would over look the opportunity to acquire Kesler.
Vancouver may take the safest option and re-sign Kesler. Even though free agency is a while a way, don’t be surprised if contract talks start well before July 1st, a deal may done much sooner than most would envisage. It’s unlikely all parties concerned will allow talks to hang in the balance for as long as they did with the Sedins? Although if contract conversations start to stall and grind to a halt the only option left for Vancouver could be to find him a new home with another team.
Ryan Kesler is a very skilled and talented player, who will probably play for the U.S.A in the 2010 Olympics, is he really a top six forward? He has adapted to the position very well, you have to wonder if he really does have enough offensive upside, to provide points for his team on a regular basis? If he were to play for a team who had a great abundance of offensive artillery, rather than a team who is slightly lacking in that area, would he be expected to play on the second line? Extending his contract is not a negative thing, but perhaps it would be more beneficial to sign a proven top six center? Thus allowing the team to play a more offensive style, also easing the pressure from the Sedin line. Another option would be to re-sign him and upgrade his wingers. If you could be the Canucks GM for the day what would you do with Ryan Kesler?
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