This was a trade that Ryan Kesler had pushed for, this was the one that had been rumored for months — even going back to the NHL trade deadline. But when it happened, there were two parties involved who weren’t quite ready for the move.
It was only a week before Nick Bonino’s wedding. He was in Boston preparing for it when he got the call that the Ducks had finally traded for Ryan Kesler, but in return, Anaheim was sending the 26-year-old centerman, as well as defenseman Luca Sbisa, to Vancouver.
"It’s definitely shocking a little bit," Bonino said. "You’ve got to make a lot of arrangements for stuff in storage and housing and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, it was probably a good thing that my wedding was coming up because I was maybe able to put the trade in the background a little bit and focus on the wedding."
The former Syracuse Crunch line of Bonino and current Anaheim wingers Kyle Palmieri and Patrick Maroon were in attendance that week. The news was a shock to more than just Bonino, but it’s the hazards of the trade and everyone knew that the transaction greatly benefitted both teams.
"You never want to see a guy get traded but it was nice to be together and to see both of those guys and have a chance to hang out with them," said Palmieri, Bonino’s former roommate. "It was a little surprising but it was a trade that needed to happen. They’re both off to good starts and obviously, Kesler is has had a huge impact on our team."
But more on Kesler later.
Bonino has seven goals and five points for the revitalized Canucks. He’s scored three game-winners and has a 20.6 shooting percentage. Being traded for a center like Kesler, Bonino was always going to draw comparisons to him, which is unfair, but he’s thrived in Vancouver so far, blossoming into a quality second-line center.
"It’s been a very accepting team and they’ve made it very easy to transition," Bonino said. "It’s not a bad place to have to play hockey for a living. It’s been great so far. Obviously, getting off to a 10-5 start is where we want to be and we’re happy with that."
Kesler left Vancouver under far different circumstances.
Much maligned, Kesler needed a change of scenery. The large media throngs in hockey-mad Vancouver wore on him at times and the organization was in the midst of a complete overhaul.
Although he had long thought he would be a Canuck forever, Kesler was stuck in a rut and had let go of those notions.
The transition to Anaheim hasn’t quite been seamless, but with so many new faces on the Ducks’ roster, everyone is still transitioning.
"I’ve had new linemates, it seems like, every game," he said. "That part is hard, mentally and cognitively, to get used to having new players, but I’m starting to find a groove here."
Facing the Canucks, now a Pacific Division foe, Sunday night at the Honda Center and knowing he’ll face them two more times in the regular season, it’s strange for Kesler to look around his tiny media scrum and realize where he is now.
"It’s pretty exciting reminiscing and thinking about the times the past 11 years," he said. "I went there when I was 18-years-old and now I’m 30. That’s a long time, that’s basically my whole young adult life. I went there as a single guy and I left with three kids and a wife, so a lot has changed in my life."
Kesler insists that he harbors no ill will towards the Vancouver fans, media or the organization. One of his kids was born there, the city and the organization mean too much to him. Bonino and Sbisa still have great respect for the organization that brought them up.
"You make so many lifelong friends on other teams," said Ducks’ head coach Bruce Boudreau. "For us, Bonino and Sbisa were two of the most popular players we had. So I’m sure there will be a lot of fun chirping going on."