Ryan Kesler is a deadline game-changer

One NHL assistant general manager couldn’t quite articulate why he believed this was going to be an especially active trade deadline. He didn’t have any concrete examples, nor was his team particularly close to making a deal. There was just something different going on out there in discussions with his colleagues.

“Really, there are four teams, five teams legitimately out of it. You can only pick through them so much,” he said. “I can’t quantify it, but I think there will be more 'hockey deals.' The UFA market is thin, you want to get somebody with term that makes sense.”

Then the conversation shifted to the Vancouver Canucks.

They’re a team in a strange place right now. They’re still good enough to compete for a playoff spot, and perhaps even make a run once they get there. But their roster is aging at an alarmingly rapid pace. They’ve got young talent coming, but not quite ready to arrive.

There’s a gap growing between the aging Vancouver core and the next generation of Canucks. Because of that, Vancouver apparently isn’t ruling anything out at this deadline.

“They’re open to any kind of discussion,” he said.

On Wednesday night, we got a sense of exactly what that means. TVA Sports’ Louis Jean reported that Ryan Kesler asked for a trade, a report that was quickly denied by Kesler’s agent and got a "no comment" from Canucks GM Mike Gillis. TSN’s Bob McKenzie also reported that the Canucks were listening to offers for Kesler. It all validates an early February report by colleague Pierre LeBrun that any veteran outside the Sedin twins was potentially in play.

The agent denial isn’t surprising, because it’s on him to help protect the reputation of his client. You don’t want this turning into a Dany Heatley situation where an entire city turns on a player. The ideal is to get what you want while also looking like a good, reasonable guy. Exhibit A of that is how forward Thomas Vanek and his veteran agent, Steve Bartlett, have handled Vanek's exit from the New York Islanders. It has been done professionally, reasonably and honestly without making either side look bad. The same goes for goalie Ryan Miller and Mike Liut and the likely exit from Buffalo, another situation being handled with professionalism and tact.

The more telling comment comes from Gillis, who easily could have shot down the report if it wasn’t completely untrue.