Ducks get their man — Kesler traded to Anaheim

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Ryan Kesler has been traded to Anaheim. The 29-year-old former Selke Trophy winner will go from the Vancouver Canucks to the Ducks, in return for center Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa, and Anaheim’s first-round pick (24th overall) in today’s draft.

The teams will also swap third-round picks, with Vancouver getting the 85th overall pick this year and Anaheim receiving Vancouver’s third-rounder next year.

Kesler had 25 goals and 18 assists in 2013-14. His best scoring season came in 2010-11, when he had 41 goals. His contract is attractive, with a cap hit of $5 million for two more years, before he can become an unrestricted free agent. If there’s a concern for the Ducks, it’s his lengthy injury log. But with Ryan Getzlaf as 1C and Kesler as 2C, Anaheim can now match the Los Angeles Kings down the middle. The move also leaves the Chicago Blackhawks still searching for a 2C.

For Vancouver, the return for Kesler is perhaps not what the team’s fans had hoped for. Bonino, 26, is younger and scored 22 times last season. He also has a good contract, with three years remaining at a cap hit of $1.9 million. But his overall body of work does not compare with Kesler’s. In 189 NHL games, Bonino has 33 goals and 49 assists. He hasn’t been a workhorse like Kesler, and he hasn’t played against the opponent’s top players like Kesler has.

Sbisa, meanwhile, played 30 games for the Ducks last season, scoring once with five assists. The 24-year-old missed time with both an ankle injury and hand injury. His cap hit is $2.175 million in 2014-15, before he can become a restricted free agent next summer.

In defense of Canucks general manager Jim Benning, he had limited teams with which to deal. Kesler has a no-trade clause and wanted to go to a Stanley Cup contender, with Anaheim and Chicago reportedly the top two potential destinations. And the Blackhawks were always going to be loathe to give up either Brandon Saad or Teuvo Teravainen.

“This trade reinforces our goal to add youth, support our core players and develop draft picks who will contribute to the future success of our team,” said Benning in a release. “Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa are talented players who immediately bring youth and skill to our roster. An additional first- and third-round pick gives us the opportunity to add two strong players to our system.”

Similarly, Vancouver’s president of hockey ops, Trevor Linden, had this to say in May: “When I see playoff teams that are successful, I see teams that have some depth, teams that can roll four lines out. I like the people we have in [our] core positions, but they need support from the bottom. There’s a gap between the core players and what’s coming from below them. There hasn’t been a real push from the bottom and that’s created issues.”

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.