What will Benning do with Kesler? Plenty of teams would like to know

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It’s hard to understate the value of a top two-way center.

Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Pavel Datsyuk. Can we agree that those are the first four names that pop to mind in the category?

Well, each of them has at least one Stanley Cup ring. And that’s no coincidence.

Which brings us to Ryan Kesler, the 2011 winner of the Selke Trophy, which just so happened to be the same year he fell one win shy of hoisting the Cup with the Vancouver Canucks. Also, not a coincidence.

Now, one could debate whether Kesler is still a Selke-caliber player. The 29-year-old has only added to his lengthy injury log the past few seasons, and he wasn’t even in the conversation for the award in 2013-14. But there’s a reason Kesler’s future in Vancouver is one of the major question marks facing incoming general manager Jim Benning, and a story that will be watched with great interest around the NHL. If the Canucks do decide to deal the Livonia native — something they explored at this season’s deadline, before Benning’s predecessor, Mike Gillis, was fired — there will be suitors. Plenty of them.

According to The Province, Kesler was willing to waive his no-trade clause for six teams: Anaheim, Colorado, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.The Ducks and Penguins were considered the front-runners to add his services, though ultimately no deal was made. At least one of them still sounds interested. The other needs to hire a new GM first.

The budget-conscious Avs are an interesting potential trade partner, given the uncertain future of two-way center Paul Stastny, not to mention Kesler’s affordable contract that has two years remaining, with an annual salary of just $5 million.

Not sure the Blackhawks have the cap room for Kesler, but could they use him as a second-line center? Without a doubt.

Tampa Bay? Detroit? They’d probably take Benning’s call. And if Kesler really wants out of Vancouver, he may be willing to expand his list beyond six teams.

Or, the Canucks may decide to keep Kesler. Vancouver’s new president of hockey ops, Trevor Linden, said yesterday that he was encouraged by the conversation the two had following the season. And while it’s not totally clear what Linden meant by that, he also said he wants to make the playoffs next year. Which would seem to preclude a wholesale rebuild.

Anyway, Benning will be introduced to the media tomorrow in Vancouver.

Kesler’s name might come up.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.