Ryan Kesler contract keeps Ducks in their championship window

Ryan Kesler contract keeps Ducks in their championship window

Newly re-signed center Ryan Kesler made very clear that his new six-year pact with the Anaheim Ducks is not a retirement deal.

“This isn’t my last contract. I want another one after this,” he said, scoffing as only Kesler can at a question about the deal’s length. “Right now I’m sitting here saying I won’t be done, and my family supports that and they know when that time comes, I’ll be ready to retire, but right now I’m fully confident I can play out this contract and get another one after.”

The 30-year-old, who inked the deal Wednesday will see it end after the 2021-22 season. He’ll be 37. That’s a long, long time from now, and his production at such an age will almost certainly drop. Also, Kesler’s injury history (shoulder and hip problems) add to the questioning of his longevity.

There was even some initial thought – looking at the contract – that Kesler would even be a buyout candidate later in the deal.  Fascinating that in today’s CBA we now think of these things moments after a guy gets a mega-contract. But in the NHL’s salary cap world, long-term planning is vital.

Sportsnet notes that there are several center comparables who will make big money late in their career.

Kesler’s salary cap hit is lower than Jazon Spezza’s, who will make an average of $7.5 million until the age of 36.

While it’s hard to see Kesler being effective in his mid-30s, this is not a deal for the next decade. It’s a move for now. Ducks general manager Bob Murray probably sees a championship window with this team of about two – maybe three more years. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are both 30 years old and still productive. The elite teams in the Western Conference all mostly have elite 1-2 punches at center. Or at least a powerful first-line center.

Kesler isn’t considered a 1C, but he certainly is much better than your normal 2C.

Essentially Murray is saying ‘get this guy re-signed win the Stanley Cup and deal with all the headaches that come after the glory.’

Murray would probably love to be in Stan Bowman’s shoes right now – destroying a Cup winner rather than fine-tuning a Cup pretender.

This was a team that was one win away from making a Stanley Cup Final. And with the Blackhawks summer roster annihilation and Kings off-ice issues, the Ducks seem like the mid-July favorite coming out of the Western Conference.

“We’re close, we’re right there, we just need to go and do it and start from scratch again and start this ride all over again that we’re all excited to get going again,” Kesler said. “We’ve learned not to let it happen again because that’s our job as leaders of a team, that’s not going to happen again, I’ll tell you that.”

Granted, if the Ducks don’t win a Stanley Cup in the first few years, then this deal will not look so wonderful. But thems the risks you take if you’re a competitive team in its window.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!