Pittsburgh Penguins: Pens Missed Big-Time in Not Acquiring Ryan Kesler


You know what they say; Hindsight is 20/20.  But, it doesn’t take perfect vision to see that the Pittsburgh Penguins had an opportunity, at least according to multiple rumors, to add a major commodity in Ryan Kesler prior to the 2014 NHL trade deadline.

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Rumors began swirling that the Vancouver Canucks were looking to unload Kesler as the relationship between him and the team had soured.  They were reportedly looking for a young, NHL-ready center, along with a prospect and/or pick in return, pieces that the Pittsburgh Penguins definitely had in the cupboard.

Rob Rossi of the Trib reported that Ray Shero made an offer which included Brandon Sutter and Derrick Pouliot last season prior to the actual deadline, but the deal went nowhere.  My feelings on that offer haven’t wavered, as I feel that giving up Pouliot in any deal was and still is a bad idea, but the Pens undoubtedly had multiple options to explore in order to seal this deal.

As expected, Kesler was eventually dealt at the NHL Entry Draft last summer, and is thriving with the Anaheim Ducks.  The deal that ultimately scored his services was as follows…

Anaheim received: Ryan Kesler and Vancouver’s 2015 third round draft pick.
Vancouver received: Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and Anaheim’s 2014 first round draft pick (24th overall).

I’ve been critical of Ray Shero’s willingness to hand out draft picks for rentals in the past, but this isn’t the same type of situation. Kesler is playing the best hockey of his career, and isn’t a rental. Derrick Pouliot would have been the only prospect off the table for me in this situation, and any pick would have been up for grabs.  Players that can impact a team like Kesler simply don’t come around that often.

Did Pittsburgh’s obsession with Brandon Sutter come into play?

Of course, there’s always the chance that Vancouver simply said that it’s Pouliot or nothing, in which case it makes sense to retreat.  There’s also the possibility that Kesler didn’t see Pittsburgh as a good fit, and he has a no-movement clause which means he’d have to approve any trade that occurs.  However, these types of happenings would normally make their way into the media. And, considering that early reports had the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks as his top two teams, that somewhat dismisses whether he wanted to play for the Pens.

There’s also the question of, where would he fit?  Would he be okay with playing a third line center role?  Can he play wing?

According to him, prior to the trade deadline last year, the answer to both of those questions is “yes”.  He stated that he was willing to do whatever is necessary to play for a winner.  If it meant flanking Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, that would have been fine.  If it meant anchoring the third line and providing a three-center model like the Pens had with Jordan Staal, that was okay as well.

Ultimately, Kesler found a great place to play in Anaheim.  A team that is currently one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals and stocked with young talent.  But, it’s interesting to think what could have been if the rumored deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins had been successful.  In my opinion, based off the silence from the Pittsburgh Penguins after one deal seemed to fall through, the Pens missed a chance at adding a piece that instantly makes last season’s roster (without the injuries) a true contender.

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