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The first big trade chip of the 2014 NHL draft has been cashed in, with the Vancouver Canucks sending coveted center Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday for two players and a pick.
The Ducks delivered center Nick Bonino and defenseman Luca Sbisa, as well as the 24th overall pick in this year's draft, which the Canucks used to take center Jared McCann from Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League. The deal was consummated just hours before the first round began at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.
"I'm going to Anaheim to win a championship," said Kesler, who waived his no-trade clause. "That's going to be my sole goal, and my team's sole goal."
The 29-year-old Kesler, who is coming off a 25-goal season for the Canucks, has spent his entire 10-season career in Vancouver, compiling six 20-goal seasons and 392 points while playing an agitating, physical style. The two-time U.S. Olympian won the Selke Trophy in 2011 as the NHL's best defensive forward. He has two years remaining on a six-year, $30 million deal.
The Ducks even kept the 10th overall pick in the draft, a product of their trade last year sending forward Bobby Ryan to Ottawa, which they used to select winger Nick Ritchie from the OHL's Peterborough Petes. Anaheim sent a third-round selection -- No. 85 -- to the Canucks, who flipped that pick to the New York Rangers for rugged forward Derek Dorsett. Anaheim also got a third-round pick in 2015 from Vancouver.
"This trade reinforces our goal to add youth, support our core players and develop draft picks who will contribute to the future success of our team," Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in a statement. "Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa are talented players who immediately bring youth and skill to our roster. An additional first- and third-round pick gives us the opportunity to add two strong players to our system."
The deal ends months of speculation as to where Kesler would land. The 29-year-old pivot made a surprising appearance on the trading block at the deadline in March but ultimately was not moved. The Livonia, Mich., native had a no-trade clause, which allowed him to veto some of the interested suitors, including the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Both the Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks were believed to be Kesler's top two choices, and the deal addresses Anaheim's desire to land another skilled center to bolster the team's depth down the middle.
|The Canucks have traded center Ryan Kesler to the Ducks in a deal for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and the 24th overall pick, which Anaheim used on center Jared McCann.|
With Ryan Getzlaf already slotted in the No. 1 center spot, Kesler's addition provides the Ducks with a dangerous 1-2 punch, a necessity for the Ducks, especially considering they will have to go through the 2014 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for the foreseeable future."It's tough comparing yourself to a Stanley Cup-winning team, but there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle," Kesler said. "I think I can fit into this team and be a good No. 2 behind Ryan Getzlaf. We have size, speed and grit. I'd say that Getzlaf is one of the best centers in the game. I'm going to come in behind him and do my job."
The Ducks struggled against the Los Angeles Kings' vaunted depth down the middle during their playoff series, so general manager Bob Murray made sure his team matches up better with the Stanley Cup champs by adding one of the best two-way centers in hockey."We're better on faceoffs automatically," Murray said. "Ryan does it all. We have a great 1-2 punch up the middle."
"You have to give up good players to get a player like Ryan," said Murray, named the NHL's top GM earlier this week. "We felt it was a time to make a little bit of a move to improve our hockey team. It's not easy, but we feel like we're a better team than we were yesterday. I don't know how much closer we are (to a Cup), but we'll find out come October and November."
The Canucks also traded defenseman Jason Garrison, the rights to winger Jeff Costello, and a seventh-round pick in 2015 to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 50th overall pick in this year's draft. The move opens up additional salary-cap flexibility for Vancouver.
Now that Kesler has been moved, the flurry of activity is expected to pick up in what has already been a suspenseful pre-free agency period, which opened Wednesday. Though Kesler could headline any trade class in recent years, the market for a marquee center has been saturated with an abundance of talent that teams are willing to dangle.
Ottawa is listening to deals for Jason Spezza, though Senators general manager Bryan Murray does not sound enthused with the offers he has received, and San Jose appears interested in moving Joe Thornton, though the veteran captain has a no-move clause and, as a source informed ESPN.com recently, has no desire to play anywhere else.
Bonino, 26, had 22 goals and 49 points for the Ducks last season, while Sbisa had one goal and six points in 30 games.
Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang and The Associated Press was used in this report.