Before he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks, Ryan Kesler confirmed a deal was in place for the Vancouver Canucks to send him to the Pittsburgh Penguins seven years ago.
There had been many reports and rumours about what took place at the time, but this is the first detailed public recollection from Kesler, who wanted out of Vancouver. Kesler, who had a no-trade clause in his contract, was not moved at the 2014 trade deadline by then-general manager Mike Gillis.
The rumour at the time was that Canucks ownership blocked a potential trade at the deadline. Gillis was fired a month later, and new GM Jim Benning ended up settling for a trade with the Anaheim Ducks that summer.
A very open and honest Kesler spoke about what led to his trade out of Vancouver seven years ago, in an interview with Sportsnet 650 on Monday. The longtime Canuck said he wasn’t happy about what transpired at the deadline, and upon further reflection in the summer, decided to shorten the list of teams he would welcome a trade to from six or seven, down to just two.
“I gave Vancouver six or seven teams… and I didn’t get traded at the deadline,” Kesler said on The People’s Show, hosted by Satiar Shah, Dan Riccio, and Randip Janda. “Then summer comes, and Jim Benning comes in, and I really sat down and really thought, and I’m like, you know what, I just gave them [seven teams] and they couldn’t deal me when I asked to be dealt. I heard Pittsburgh had a deal for me and it fell through — don’t know why still to this day.”
"Players take less money to have security" ~Ryan Kesler on using a NMC#ThePeoplesShow @SatiarShah @danriccio_ @RandipJanda talked to Kes about the deadline, Taylor Hall using his NMC, and his near trade to Pittsburgh.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) April 13, 2021
The teams Kesler said he told Gillis he would accept a trade to Pittsburgh, Anaheim, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Colorado, Detroit, and “maybe” the New York Rangers.
When Benning took over, he assumed he would have the same seven teams to work with, but Kesler changed his mind.
“Jim calls me and he’s like ‘okay we have your seven teams, we’re gonna get to work here.’ I said ‘Jim, it’s not your fault, but it’s two teams now.’ He got all mad with me and I was like ‘Jim, I asked to get dealt last year.’ He put me in a really bad spot the rest of the year. Everybody knew I wanted out — my teammates, everyone.”
— Rob Rossi (@Real_RobRossi) February 28, 2014
Ironically, two of the names tossed around in rumours for a would-be Penguins trade ended up in Vancouver during the Benning era — Brandon Sutter and Derrick Pouliot. Pittsburgh was said to be reluctant to move Pouliot, who was just two years removed from being drafted eighth overall at the time. Young defencemen like Brian Dumoulin and Simon Despres were also mentioned in rumours, though we don’t know what the final deal could have been.
Though Kesler gave Benning two teams, the Ducks were said to be the only serious pursuer given that Chicago had salary cap issues. The return for the former Selke Trophy winner was underwhelming, with Anaheim giving up Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, the 24th overall draft pick (Jared McCann), and a swap of third-round picks.
“It wasn’t an eff-you to the fans, it wasn’t an eff-you to [Benning], it’s just… I looked and I was like you know what, I really like where these two teams are headed.”
Following the trade to Anaheim, Kesler was vilified by Canucks fans, who booed him every time he returned to Vancouver for the rest of his career. Fans forgave him in retirement though, as Kesler received a roaring standing ovation when he returned for Sedin Night last year.
“Do I wish it would have went differently with the way me and the fans were [in Vancouver]? A hundred per cent. Do I really appreciate the way the fans treated me when I came back for Henrik and Daniel’s jersey retirement? One thousand per cent.
“Vancouver will always be home to my family. Vancouver will always be where my son was born. I love it there and I go back every summer.”