Will Pittsburgh Rekindle Ryan Kesler Trade Talks?


Mar 29, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler (17) skates against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period at Rogers Arena. The Anaheim Ducks won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the teams aggressively pursuing a trade that would land Vancouver Canucks’ forward Ryan Kesler at this past trade deadline.

Now that Pittsburgh has canned general manager Ray Shero, who was at the forefront of those trade talks, will his replacement resurrect those Kesler discussions?

One of the more physical forwards in the league, Kesler’s effectiveness is similar to what ex-Penguin Jordan Staal brought. Although the two bring different tangibles and contribute in their own way, it seems Pittsburgh has been missing Staal’s presence in their lineup, which explains their relentless push to attain Kesler.

Not only does Kesler resemble Staal’s game, in that they’re both big, gritty forwards, but Kesler can produce points at a higher volume than Staal, making him that much more of a spark on the ice for Pittsburgh, who struggled with secondary scoring all season long. Whether Kesler’s skating alongside Sidney Crosby or centering the third-line, there’s no doubt he’d be a significant piece in their hopes of returning to the Stanley Cup Finals.

There’s just one problem though. Brandon Sutter, who was the centerpiece in those trade talks, was arguably the team’s best player in the playoffs this season. Sutter is due to become a restricted free agent, but looked as though he’d turned the corner down the stretch of the regular-season, and is heading in the right direction in terms of growth. And with the way he performed, Sutter has earned another go with Pittsburgh.

So, does Pittsburgh covet Kesler with intentions to put him on the top-line with Crosby knowing his first position is center? Or, do they look elsewhere to improve their team?

It goes without question that Kesler would be a fine addition, but at what cost? If Sutter isn’t included in the deal, who is Pittsburgh going to surrender? Vancouver, like Pittsburgh, doesn’t have the same general manager who was involved in those earlier trade deliberations, and there’s no telling what the Canucks would be demanding should phone calls be exchanged this summer between the two organizations.

There’s no doubt the Pens have a plethora of prospects to deal, but should they, and will they part with them? Believe it or not, some of Pittsburgh’s core players are close to being 30-years-old, and so the departure of key young talent could backfire on the Pens in the future. But with the floating urgency to win while Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are still at the top of their games, Pittsburgh may do whatever it takes to capture another Cup.

Personally, Kesler’s price tag will be too high. However, come draft time, teams usually lower their demands, knowing the window to acquire a first rounder is tight, and the urgency to get a jumpstart on developing the prospect is prevalent. Kesler’s potential ‘Burgh landing spot would be great, but relinquishing a substantial package to reel him in is not wise at all.

There are plenty of players out there Pittsburgh can bring aboard. As much as I like the idea of Kesler being acquired, I also recognize that Sutter, a choice of Brian Dumoulin or Simon Despres, and two draft picks (first, third) wasn’t enough to get him in the original trade talks. So, how heavy of an assortment is Vancouver seeking? To me, it’s not worth it.

Nevertheless, according to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, we should expect the Kesler speculation to resurface this summer.