The Province

Kesler smart in denying trade request

It’s better to proclaim happiness to be here and snuff rumours; avoid Luongo-like situation

- Jason Botchford ON THE CANUCKS jbotchford@theprovinc­e.com twitter.com/botchford

Leave it to Roberto Luongo to capture both the Ryan Kesler firestorm and the current state of the Vancouver Canucks with one of his zingers.

“I said whether he wants to go or stay, he’s not going anywhere,” Luongo said. “We all know how this script ends.” Bull’s-eye. Yes, the Canucks are the team that never changes, even when they want to.

At least not at their core. And, right now, that’s the problem.

It seems almost cruel the NHL has its trophies on display this week in Vancouver, leading up to Sunday’s Heritage Classic.

It’s like an archeologi­cal dig for local fans, who can sift through the brief moment in NHL history when the Canucks racked hardware, and appeared to be one of the league’s gold standards.

But the gold has darkened, and rapidly. Anyone who watches the Canucks regularly has seen this thin layer of corrosion that’s enveloping them larger by the day.

The team desperatel­y needs to reinvent itself or risk skipping down the same path to oblivion the Calgary Flames did.

Coincident­ly, and this couldn’t have come at a better time for the Canucks, local Vancouver fans have an appetite for a rebuild that hasn’t been matched in a decade.

Never, in my memory, has making the playoffs meant so little to this town. That’s because the Canucks, with few elite prospects ringing the Rogers Arena doorbell, appear to be a team without a future.

Say what you want about the hockey fans here, they’re not dumb. This is not currently a Stanley Cup contender and squeezing into the postseason isn’t going to change anything.

What can is Ryan Kesler, whose openness to a trade is a potential game-changer.

He’s a prized centre who has starred in big games, during the Olympics and the Stanley Cup playoffs. He has term left, and a great, cap-cosy contract. He is the type of player you see on the trade market maybe once every few years.

And, wouldn’t you know, this is the right time for GM Mike Gillis to finally change course and trade one of his core pieces. It’s not going to be easy, especially for a general manager who was accused of being obstinate in the Luongo fiasco, and one who has been plagued by over-valuing his core players.

Kesler is not yet 30 years old, and is having a solid, bounce-back season, broken finger or not.

Get the right package for Kesler before next week’s trade deadline, and the Canucks will finally be allin on getting themselves what they need most — a future.

Kesler is on the trade block. He predictabi­lity followed his agent’s lead and denied the report he’s asked out on Thursday.

“I never commented to anyone I wanted out,” Kesler said. “My heart is with this team, and making the playoffs.

“This is probably coming from our seven-game losing streak (before Wednesday’s 1-0 win over St. Louis) and hearing reports everyone not named Sedin is on the trade block.”

But that’s after several different reporters in Russia have relayed stories that he was clear in Sochi in saying he wanted a trade. This comes after the Canucks somehow got word he’s open to one. So, the cat, as they say, is not only out of the bag, it’s circled back and shredded the thing.

Teams around the NHL already know which teams Kesler will waive his no-trade clause for.

Denying all of this emphatical­ly is the right call, especially for anyone who sits a few locker stalls away from Luongo and watched the emotional wringer the goalie was dragged through regularly, and publicly, after a trade request of his own.

It’s probably what Martin St. Louis should have done too. He was labelled a baby and publicly lashed pretty good for not denying his own trade request. Tsk tsk.

Admitting on the record you want out is not a road I’d advise any NHL player to go down. Just ask Pavel Bure. Better to deny, deny and then shut up.

If you really want to do everything you can to facilitate a trade, you say what Kesler said Thursday:

“I am a Canuck and I’m happy to be here.”

You say that even if you’d be happier in, say Detroit, Washington or Pittsburgh.

Luongo tried to be as open and honest about his situation as he could. Where did that get him?

Stuck, that’s where.

 ?? GERRY KAHRMANN /PNG FILES ?? A fan shows off her sign for Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler during the playoffs last season. Kesler is a prized centre who has starred on the big stage, but what he might bring back in a trade could present hope for the Canucks’ future.
GERRY KAHRMANN /PNG FILES A fan shows off her sign for Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler during the playoffs last season. Kesler is a prized centre who has starred on the big stage, but what he might bring back in a trade could present hope for the Canucks’ future.
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