The first big trade chip of the 2014 NHL draft has fallen, with the Vancouver Canucks sending coveted center Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks for two players and a pick.
The Ducks sent back center Nick Bonino and defenseman Luca Sbisa, as well as the 24th overall pick in this year's draft, in a deal consummated just hours before the first round was scheduled to begin at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.
The Canucks also received the 85th overall pick in this year's draft, while Anaheim received a third-round pick in next year's draft.
"This trade reinforces our goal to add youth, support our core players and develop draft picks who will contribute to the future success of our team,"Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in a statement. "Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa are talented players who immediately bring youth and skill to our roster. An additional first- and third-round pick gives us the opportunity to add two strong players to our system."
The deal ends months of speculation as to where Kesler would land. The 29-year-old pivot made a surprising appearance on the trading block at the trade deadline in March but ultimately was not moved. The Livonia, Mich., native had a no-trade clause, which allowed him to veto some of the interested suitors, which included the New York Rangers and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Both the Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks were believed to be Kesler's top two choices, and the deal addresses Anaheim's desire to land another skilled center to bolster the team's depth down the middle.
With Ryan Getzlaf already slotted in the No. 1 center spot, Kesler's addition provides the Ducks with a dangerous 1-2 punch on their top two lines, a necessity for the Ducks, especially considering they will have to go through the 2014 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for the foreseeable future.
Now that Kesler has been moved, the flurry of activity is expected to pick up in what has already been a suspenseful pre-free agency period since opening on Wednesday. Though Kesler could headline any trade class in recent years, the sweepstakes for a marquee center has been saturated this summer with an abundance of talent that teams are willing to dangle.
Ottawa is listening on Jason Spezza, though Senators general manager Bryan Murray does not sound enthused with the offers he has received so far, and San Jose appears interested in moving Joe Thornton, though the veteran captain has a no-move clause and, as a source informed ESPN.com recently, has no desire to play anywhere else.
Kesler, who is coming off a 25-goal season for the Canucks, has two years remaining on a six-year, $30 million deal. Bonino, 26, had 22 goals and 49 points for the Ducks last season, while Sbisa had one goal and six points in 30 games for Anaheim.
Ryan Kesler headed to Ducks