There are plenty of interesting rumors floating around, but Monday seemed to represent the calm before the storm. Without a Ryan Miller-level deal beyond the Ryan Miller deal that already happened, I feel like it’s best to touch on one trade story (Ryan Kesler) and one on-ice story (Darcy Kuemper) in particular.
With Miller’s path settled, Kesler’s name dominates the headlines right now and probably will continue to do so as Tuesday and Wednesday go along. About the only thing that seems certain is that the former Ohio State University student won’t be going back to the Buckeye state, as he crossed the Columbus Blue Jackets off his list of would-be destinations thanks to his handy no-trade clause.
The latest hubub is that the Canucks have a very specific asking price for Kesler, at least as of Monday night: a somewhat comparable center around age 25, a high-end prospect and a first-round draft pick. The Canucks also would rather not trade Kesler within their conference, which lends credibility to the notion that this might come down to in-state rivals in the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins … two teams who no-doubt love to deal.
The most important thing, of course, is to note that this entire scenario assumes that things will work out according to a universe where Canucks GM Mike Gillis finds a trade that he can actually accept. It’s hard to fathom the notoriously picky executive actually finding a dancing partner he can be happy with, but for the sake of fun, let’s picture a scenario in which trades work out for Gillis.
(Also included in this alternate universe: no controversy regarding goaltenders, seamless integration of John Tortorella’s coaching philosophies and puppies with human life expectancies.)
Anyway, let’s assume that Gillis’ wildest dreams come true and the Penguins - Flyers bidding war really happens. I have to admit it: for a wide variety of reasons, my gut feeling is that it would be better if Kesler landed with the Flyers.
For one thing, Kesler signed an offer sheet with the Flyers in 2006, so he’d obviously be interested in playing for the Broad Street Bullies. Stylistically, he also fits into the image of a Bobby Clarke-type center, as he mixes skill, agitation and two-way play better than most these days.*
Besides, wouldn’t a potential playoff series be much more fun with Kesler in Philly? If Claude Giroux - Kesler vs. Sidney Crosby - Evgeni Malkin doesn’t excite you, you might want to sit this whole “hockey” thing out.
The fit makes more sense functionally, too. Mike Colligan makes a great argument regarding how Kesler could eventually make a lot of sense for Pittsburgh, yet the situation is a little awkward if you give much weight to the murmurs that Kesler wasn’t enthused with playing on the wing in Vancouver. So what do you do in Pittsburgh? Do you line him up on the wing with Crosby or Malkin? Does he become an even more overqualified third-line center than Jordan Staal was with the Pens?
Yes, a creative coach can make it kind-of sort-of work, but it seems like Kesler would find himself in a similar situation (only on a Cup contender) in Pittsburgh as he does in Vancouver. Philadelphia, on the other hand, seems to fit like a glove. Giroux and Kesler could be a one-two punch of stars who can do a little bit of everything. And, better yet, he could slide into that appropriate second-line center role (whether Sean Couturier goes in that Gillis’ dream trade or not) where he can load up on FWs, cash in on power-play chances and play a big role.
(Granted, the Penguins could use his right-handed shot, but there’s some square peg round hole going on there.)
The Canucks are probably a better team with Kesler than without him, but it’s probably better if they just go ahead and start disbanding this squad. Long story short, it’s best for our greater entertainment and fantasy hockey purposes if Kesler gets traded to the Flyers.
But, sadly, dogs don’t enjoy human-length lives, so he probably won’t get traded at all. No fun.
KUEMPER STAYS WILD
On Monday, I discussed the Minnesota Wild’s questions in net. Considering Niklas Backstrom’s backup-level play at $3.41 million per year and Josh Harding’s unclear future, I still don’t think they’d be foolish to add some insurance if it comes at the right price (Jaroslav Halak almost makes too much sense with his expiring contract).
Darcy Kuemper’s five-game winning streak might just prompt Wild GM Chuck Fletcher to do nothing, and understandably so. The third star of the NHL’s first week back from the Olympics is now 11-3-2 this season along with a .924 save percentage and 2.19 GAA after his cup of coffee (1-2-0 with a .916 save percentage and 2.08 GAA) in 2012-13.
Obviously, that’s a small sample size for any long-term investments - both for your team and the Wild’s planning - but I see little reason not to give him a look if you’re hurting for a goalie.
You might be asking: who is this guy, though? Here are a few more details regarding Kuemper.
-- For pun purposes, his last name is pronounced (KEHM-puhr), according to the Wild. (Not that you/I have ever allowed proper pronunciation to get in the way of cheesy/brilliant/cheesy-brilliant headlines.)
-- The Wild selected the 23-year-old in the sixth round (161st overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft.
-- He’s listed at 6-foot-5, so he’s a big fellow. It’s kind of weird not to use the words “really” or “very” in conjunction with big, but at this point, it almost feels cynical. I mean, the Nashville Predators alone have two goalies on their roster (OK, Devan Dubnyk is on waivers …) that are Kuemper-sized. Still, he’s another large goalie. Speaking of large Predators goalies, Pekka Rinne returns on Tuesday, so adjust lineups accordingly.
-- Con: small sample sizes, especially at higher levels. Pro: He’s excelled in just about every situation he’s been placed in.
So, in a nutshell, Kuemper remains an unknown entity in a lot of ways, but all you can ask for is that he takes advantage of his opportunities. He’s absolutely been doing that, especially lately. He's also owned in only 40 percent of Yahoo leagues, as of this writing.
* - The Penguins are a grinding, aggressive team these days … but still.