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Ryan Kesler: Defending the Albatross

We all know how he signed that contract, but is it really that bad?

Anaheim Ducks v Edmonton Oilers - Game Six Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Curious what my counterpart Benny Thomasian had to say about Kesler’s contract? Well go ahead and click right here to find out! And don’t forget to let us know which side you stand on in the comments section!

Ryan Kesler and that albatross of a contract. This is a topic of conversation that comes up quite frequently. In this piece, we’re going to peer into the mindset of General Manager Bob Murray as to why he signed Kesler to the possible salary cap killer.

Let’s take a step back and think about why Bob Murray offered that contract.

The first thing I want to address is the type of player we are talking about. Since joining the Anaheim Ducks, Ryan Kesler has been a consistent top 3 finalist for the Frank J. Selke Award for best defensive forward. Last season, many felt he was the most deserving of the award, even more than eventual winner Patrice Bergeron.

Based on offensive statistics alone, you may not entirely love Kesler. However, Kesler wasn’t brought in for his offensive capabilities. Kesler’s selling point as a player is his ability to play a stellar shutdown game in the middle of the ice. Kesler has brought what the Ducks have needed and expected from him season after season.

The main reason he was brought in was to protect Ryan Getzlaf and his aging stamina and to help win crucial face offs in the defensive zone. Trading for and re-signing Kesler was the best thing for the captain, as he no longer has to be used as the primary defensive center and can be used where he is most comfortable: for his playmaking ability.

Because of this, Anaheim is now able to use Kesler and his infamous shutdown line (including Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg) against the top lines from every other team, and it has paid off over the years. I think this needs to be re-iterated, but Kesler was not brought in to be a point-per-game player. He was brought in to be a defensive pivot who could not only put some points up on the board, but also shut down the toughest competition night after night.

The other aspect of this is the chemistry and the playoff experience. When Kesler was traded to Anaheim during the offseason of 2013-2014 season, he had already played 57 games in the playoffs. He scored 38 points overall in those 57 games, 12 of which were goals. The best playoff performance Kesler had was in the 7 games he played in the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, which the Vancouver Canucks eventually lost to the Boston Bruins. Anaheim is well known for losing Game 7s and part of me likes to believe this is one of the main reasons why the Ducks traded for and re-signed him.

The chemistry he brought to the team had an immediate impact once Kesler joined the Ducks, making it to the Western Conference Final in his first season with the club. Kesler ended up scoring 13 points in 16 games with 7 goals during that playoff year. The second season into his Ducks tenure they lost in 7 games. However, in those two Game 7s, the Kesler was arguably the team’s best player with a goal in each contest as well as an average CF% of 69.66, indicating his dominance in driving play while he was on the ice.

As for the regular season this past year (the first year of Kesler’s new contract) he scored the 2nd most points on the team, beating out Corey Perry by 5 points. Again, Kesler helped this team to the Western Conference Finals this past year. Most of us didn’t know, but Kesler in fact was playing with an injury. Just so everyone gets a full picture, he was playing with broken bone fragments in his leg. Again, BROKEN BONE FRAGMENTS!

Now, the Anaheim Ducks are an aging team; we all know this. The franchise players are coming to the point in their careers where they only have 1-2 more seasons left of elite hockey, maybe less. Yes, Murray more than likely signed Kesler to his retirement contract, but why didn’t he deserve it? He works his tail off every game and fights through injuries and makes no excuses while doing it. He is unquestionably one of the hardest working players out on the ice. Often times the market has shown us that you have to pay up for that kind of player because of the hard work and dedication he has to wining.

Looking into the offseason and which players were available, there were two other prominent centers going into unrestricted free agency. If Kesler were to make it to the open market he would have obtained this contract whether it was with the Anaheim Ducks or another team. Releastically Kesler being the better player of the three centers going into Free Agency his price tag would have most likely made it to this point. The biggest difference is that the team was able to test him out before signing an extension. This went well, which gave Kesler an upper hand going into negotiations. The players that were going into free agency during the offseason Kesler signed his extension were Frans Nielsen and David Backes.

Frans Nielsen

David Backes

Now lets say that Anaheim didnt re-sign Kesler. They already gave up valuable assets with the trade for Kesler. Giving Vancouver a Pacific Divison rival, a 1st round pick a “top 4 defenseman” Luca Sbisa, and Nick Bonino. Luckily, Anaheim has two first round draft picks from trading Bobby Ryan away. That first round pick was used on Jared McCann who is now a Center for the Florida Panthers. Let’s say Anaheim didn’t see value in Backes or Neilsen, what do they do trade more assets to get another Center? Anaheim would have most likely have had to do a similar trade. That would have depleted the prosect department which is already a little thin. It wouldn’t have been a benefit to trade more assets when you have an extremely strong center with great playoff experience and great chemistry witht the players on the ice.

Who would you gamble on? Ryan Kesler, who played for the team for two seasons and helped reached the Western Conference Finals? Or pay less money for players that have little playoff success with much less playoff experience?

Final Note:

After doing my research for this, and to ease my concern that this contract was the death of the Anaheim Ducks, I would have to say that this contract is in the realm of perfect when compared to David Backes, who since signing, has only scored 38 points last season, and Frans Nielsen who has only scored 41 points in that same time frame. Nielsen’s team didn’t make the playoffs. David Backes played 6 games and scored a total of 4 points with 1 goal. Ryan Kesler played 17 games and helped his team to the Western Conference Finals, while playing with a broken bone fragments.

Yes, Anaheim is without the help of Ryan Kesler due to last years injury. Noticeably so, the team is missing him. There is no motivation to race for the puck and no after play skirmishes that get into the minds of the other players that may cause extra penalty minutes. These are the small things that Ryan Kesler doesn't get credit for, and what opposing teams hate about him.

He is our Ryan Kesler and he is ours for another 5 years at 6.875 Mil per year.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your opinions.