Ducks make a splash with trade for Ryan Kesler

Ryan Kesler (pictured) heads to Anaheim in return for Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa and center Nick Bonino, along with the 24th pick in the draft.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Anaheim Ducks General Manager Bob Murray was not going to sit idly by and watch as the neighbors to the north, the Los Angeles Kings, won their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. After all, the road to the Cup went directly through Orange County. 

So Murray made what is arguably the flashiest and strongest move of the offseason to date Friday afternoon in Philadelphia, when he traded for Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler just hours before the 2014 NHL Draft. It was a move that’s been about five months in the making, as the Ducks nearly pulled off a trade for the 29-year-old two-way player at the trade deadline in February. Finally, the Ducks nabbed the prize piece they’ve been waiting to add.

"During the trade deadline, it was one of the teams I thought I was going to," Kesler said Friday afternoon on a conference call. "It didn’t happen, but they got it done in the summer. I’m happy to call myself a Duck, and be a part of the Anaheim Ducks."

It’s a move that makes sense for both teams. The Ducks, ready to win now, received a top faceoff man that will provide considerable depth up the middle. Kesler is expected to be a second-line center behind captain Ryan Getzlaf. 

The Canucks, in full rebuild mode, received one of the top up-and-coming young centers in Nick Bonino, a key player in the Ducks’ playoff run, and defenseman Luca Sbisa. The Canucks also received Anaheim’s 24th pick in the draft and the two teams also swapped third round draft picks. 

"You have to give up good players to get a player like Ryan," Murray, the 2014 NHL G.M. of the Year, said. "It was difficult to give up Nick and Luca, but we felt it was a time to make a little bit of a move to improve our hockey team."

Kesler asked for a trade earlier this season with the Canucks in the midst of a disastrous season. Head coach John Tortorella was fired and it became clear that the organization was going to patiently reload. Kesler wanted to win right away and wanted to stay in the Western Conference. Chicago was also in the mix but Kesler said he would only waive his no-trade clause for the Ducks.

"There were other teams that were on my list previously, but I was on the fence with them, with coaching changes and whatnot," he said. "But to be honest, I was only asked to waive my no trade to Anaheim. A deal was done, it happened fast and it caught me by surprise. I’m happy it got done today."

The 2011 Selke Award winning has scored 182 goals and 211 assists (393 points) with a plus-25 rating and 594 PIM in 655 career NHL games with Vancouver. He helped the Canucks to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and played in the last two Olympic Games for Team USA. His defensive prowess is his strong suit and his high faceoff numbers will greatly aid the Ducks, who struggled in the circle in the postseason. 

Not content being second-best in California or anywhere else, for that matter, the Ducks made it known they are ready to knock the Kings off their throne. 

"It’s not easy, but we feel like we’re a better team than we were yesterday," Murray said. "I don’t know how much closer we are, but we’ll find out come October and November."