Ryan Kesler is going from a rebuilding project to a playoff team built to win immediately.
The center's fresh start with the Anaheim Ducks should be more than enough to earn back the trust of fantasy owners.
The Vancouver Canucks' new regime of president Trevor Linden, general manager Jim Benning and coach Willie Desjardins chose to trade Kesler to the Ducks for a package that includes forward Nick Bonino and defenseman Luca Sbisa. Kesler will stay in the Pacific Division with a team much more equipped to hang with the elite throughout the Western Conference.
Fantasy owners should expect Ryan Kesler to benefit from the depth and star power of the Anaheim Ducks. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kesler, one of 10 NHL players to score at least 40 goals in a season since 2010-11, brings lineup versatility (C/RW eligible in Yahoo leagues last season) to the only team in the NHL to have multiple 80-point producers in 2013-14 (Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf). Teemu Selanne is retiring, Saku Koivu and Daniel Winnik are on the way out, and Bonino is heading to Vancouver in the trade, but Kesler will have a wealth of talent to work with in Southern California.
From the Ducks' top-line duo of Getzlaf and Perry (55 team goals when each had a point, 1st in NHL) to their surplus of capable wings (Jakob Silfverberg, Emerson Etem, Devante Smith-Pelly, Patrick Maroon), Kesler will be in position to anchor the second line and has ample reinforcements behind him in the lineup who can move up as needed. Kesler bounced around Vancouver's lineup last season, seeing time with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin on occasion when they were healthy, and on the Canucks' second line, but his production provided a near mirror image of his 2011-12 numbers, which were a big step back from his career year in 2010-11.
Kesler played 77 of a possible 82 games but dealt with a knee injury near the end of the season. Only Sidney Crosby (21:58) logged more ice time per game among forwards than Kesler (21:48) in 2013-14, and considering his injury history over the two years prior to that season, it was far from an ideal situation.
The 29-year-old will almost certainly have a more manageable workload in Anaheim given the pieces around him, as well as in front of and behind him in the lineup. Even though Getzlaf and Perry won't be playing on the same line as Kesler, they will without a doubt take pressure off him, and vice versa. Kesler should continue to see 3:50 per game (or more) on the power play and boost a unit that ranked 22nd last season (16.0 conversion percentage in regular season).
Kesler is in position be a top-50 overall asset again on the fantasy landscape and should be drafted as such this fall. It's now or never for him to return to that elusive 2010-11 form.