With their first line all signed through 2013, the Vancouver Canucks inked second line center Ryan Kesler to a six-year extension with a $5 million cap hit last week.
For a U.S. Olympian and the best pivot in the Canucks lineup, the cap investment is manageable and extremely affordable for a player of Kesler’s ilk.
Of course, this means it’s highly unlikely the team keeps Pavol Demitra beyond this season, as the oft-injured scorer is a UFA come July 1. Demitra’s $4 million is an unnecessary expense, given the fact Mason Raymond was playing strong on the second line before Demitra took his spot.
While Alex Burrows is the perfect piece next to the Sedin twins on the top unit, Kesler can run the secondary line on his own with his strong two-way effort and his growing knack for offense. Already well clear of his career high in points, Kesler is on pace for 74 in 82 games this year; production you might expect from a top line player.
Even though Kesler isn’t on the featured line, he still leads Vancouver forwards in ice time because of how important he is on both the power play (leading the team in PP goals) and penalty kill. Among the team leaders in blocked shots and hits, Kesler is a guy you want out there when you need a goal or have to prevent one. He can stop a chance at one end and turn around and finish the game at the other, as his four game-winning goals attest.
While Burrows – or anyone, really – shines with the Sedins, Kesler will do his job admirably whether he’s with Demitra, Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson, Steve Bernier or any other winger combination. Kesler’s a leader, a coming-of-age vet and a driving force.
He’ll win battles down low for puck possession, beat offenders on the backcheck, create scoring chances off the rush and is reliable in taking the key offensive or defensive zone faceoff late in a crucial game.
He’s a $5 million second-liner who’s worth every penny.
This article also appeared in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.
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