Edmonton - June 7, 2014 - Last night on TSN’s Insider Trading segment the Ryan Kesler situation was brought up. Kesler is apparently still looking for a new start in a new city, and has a team of six teams he would accept a trade to. Kesler is due $5 million/year for the next two years and has a NTC on his current deal, meaning he controls his own destiny to a certain extent. Kesler is a guy that has had some injury troubles lately, but has the ability to be a great centre on a good team. He is a 2-way guy that kills penalties, is great on face offs, plays the power play and gets in the other teams face with his style of play. He is uses an agitating style to drive opponents crazy, which allows him to use his skill to put up points. He would be a great addition to a that is looking to challenge for the Cup.
On Keslers list the team that stuck out for me was the Philadelphia Flyers, the Flyers have two players that may match the asking price from Vancouver, which is reportedly a centre and futures. This means Vancouver is likely looking for a replacement for Kesler as they ship him out, and they want a player that can step right in, right now.
Targeting the Flyers
The names that jump out as possible trade bait from the Flyers are the two obvious ones, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, these two guys are both young, have some experience under their belts, and have shown well for Philly, albeit in different capacities. If Philly is serious about acquiring Kesler, it will mean giving up one of these two players.
These two guys have been handled almost completely opposite in Philly, Couturier is being groomed into a 2-way shutdown centre, taking on tough opponents and the hard zone starts, with a huge focus on penalty killing. Schenn on the other hand has more of an offensive dynamic, he is not as strong defensively, but he has the potential to become a higher scoring centre. Which player fits the bill better and is Philly willing to give up the future for the present?
Couturier is being groomed in a much different role than Schenn. Couturier is getting the majority of his Zone Starts in the defensive end, and is playing against tougher competition while still somehow posting better Corsi numbers and almost matching Schenn offensively. Couturier put up 39 points in 82 games, had a CF% of 49.1%, his ZS% was a brutal 41.8%, and his QoC TOI% Rel was +0.9%. These numbers tell us that Couturier was starting in the defensive zone the majority of time, while playing against tough competition. Yet he was not drowing in this role. Posting a CF% of 49.1% in these circumstances and at his age is an incredible indicator of what Couturier can do as a 2-way centre in the NHL.
Couturier put up 39 points this season, which was a career high, and did so with not much time on the PP. Couturier had 21.8% of his ice time on the PP this season, and a whopping 52.1% of his ice time was shorthanded this season. Couturier spent most of his time with Read, Akeson and Raffl. He is your prototypical shut down centre with offensive upside to back him up. He would be the perfect number two centre in Vancouver and would allow the Sedins to focus more heavily on putting up points with softer zone starts.
Schenn on the other hand was placed in a role where he could focus on offense. Schenn had 41 points in 82 games, a CF% of 47.9%, his ZS% was 54.9%, and his QoC TOI% Rel was -0.8%. He was given good zone starts, less responsibility, and was counted on in a more offensive role than Couturier, yet only managed to outscore Couturier by two points. He does however bring goal-scoring abilities, posting 20 goals this past season.
Schenn could be a good point producer in Vancouver, but he is not a Ryan Kesler replacement. He gets a decent amount of time on the power play (37.1% of his ice time this past season was on the power play) but he doesn’t play the penalty kill (just 2.2% of his ice time was on the pk this season). He plays a physical style, but is not overly big and he is not a guy that will take on the best competition the opposing team has. Schenn spent most of his time on ice with Simmonds, Lecavlier and Hartnell. For Vancouver this would mean that the Sedins would need to be placed in a head-to-head role with the other teams best line, and would likely get poor zone starts.
The Best Outcome for the Canucks
The Canucks would be far better served targeting Couturier over Schenn. Both players are young and have the potential to be solid top 6 players, but Couturier would bring the perfect style of play to Vancouver. He is going to be a great shutdown centre in this league, and is already well on his way. The most impressive thing about Couturier over Schenn is that he put up similar point totals and a better CF% while playing much tougher competition, with terrible zone starts, less power play time, and an absurd amount of time on the penalty kill. Couturier at age 21 is playing the role of a shut down centre, putting up points, and still managing to put up a better Corsi than Schenn.
This is an incredible player at age 21, with lots of room to grow. Couturier could become one of the best two-way centres in the entire NHL when he fully reaches his potential.
The Canucks are no doubt looking to trade their current version of Ryan Kesler for a younger version of Ryan Kesler. If the Flyers are serious about acquiring Kesler, that guy is Sean Couturier. If the Canucks can bring Couturier in, he can immediately take over as the shut down, 2-way centre role that Kesler has been occupying for several years. Playing the PK, and shutting down the best players the opposition has to offer, while allowing the Sedins to have easier Zone Starts. The Sedins are getting older, and this past season saw them at their worst due to injuries and coaching (maybe?). By bringing Couturier in it could give Vancouver the ability to put the Sedins back in the role where they focus solely on offense. The twins are still very capable offensive players, and with a new coach should return to form offensively. Couturier would be an incredible addition by Vancouver and a great first move by Benning.
Benning and Linden need to stick to their guns on this one, as adding Couturier would be like adding Kesler as he was entering his prime. If the Flyers can’t be persuaded to part with Couturier and instead insist on Schenn, the Canucks will no doubt be asking for much more out of the Flyers.
Schenn alone doesn’t provide an enticing enough offer for Kesler. He would need to be packaged alongside at least one other player and some futures. The Canucks need to hold steady on asking for Couturier, as he would become the immediate predecessor to Kesler, and would solidify their need for a 2-way centre.
The Flyers are the perfect trading partner for Vancouver. Should Philly and Vancouver make a deal, the Canucks have to insist on Couturier over Schenn. It will set them up for the future, and would still allow them to compete for the playoffs next season. Sean Couturier would be the best-case scenario in any Ryan Kesler deal in my opinion, and the Canucks must push hard to make it happen.
Thanks for reading, and as usual hit me up @maddex19 on twitter and let me know what you hope happens with Kesler.
This article uses information from extraskater.com