In this week’s 30 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman – whose column is appointment reading for all the NHL’s story chasers and beat-niks, from Toronto to Florida across to Vancouver and down the coast through California – said Kevin Bieksa deserved better than to be dangled like a piece of meat before last week’s NHL Draft.
He deserved better than to have waived his no-trade clause for a deal that never happened, to potentially leave the only franchise he’s ever played for. He deserved better than to be the big blind at two general managers’ poker game.
If he deserved better, he got it on Tuesday, when the Vancouver Canucks traded their veteran d-man and one of their several longtime leaders to the Anaheim Ducks.
In return, the Canucks get Orange County’s second-round pick in next year’s NHL Draft, which you can expect to be in the 50-60th overall range if the Ducks once again finish somewhere near the top of the West.
“It’s always a difficult decision to trade a player who’s been such a big part of an organization for so long and we wanted to make sure we did what was best for both Kevin and the Canucks,” said general manager Jim Benning on Tuesday, thanking the player and his wife, Katie, for their years of commitment to the Canucks and Vancouver.
“Kevin was a leader for us and will always be connected with our fans and the Vancouver Canucks because of all he did for this province and team. We wish him and his family the very best.”
Bieksa is now reunited with Ryan Kesler and with a shot at a Stanley Cup, something he and his Canucks waved goodbye to in 2012, when they couldn’t last more than five games against an upstart – and eventual Cup-winning – Los Angeles Kings team.
The move also gives the Canucks a piece to play with at next year’s Draft – something they sorely lacked last weekend, when they were idle as every other team wheeled and dealt.
Benning had been trying to move Bieksa before the 2015 Draft last Friday, reportedly for a second-round pick to be used on the Saturday, and maybe more.
The move also relieves Vancouver of Bieksa’s salary, $4.6 million to be paid against the cap next year. That belongs to the Ducks, who have added another solid presence to their deep and deepening roster.
Last week, the Ducks also added speedy, productive winger Carl Hagelin, grabbing from Alain Vigneault’s New York Rangers in exchange for 2010 first-rounder Emerson Etem.
Bieksa, who played his college hockey at Bowling Green, was a fifth-round draft pick of the Canucks in 2001, a late steal by then-general manager Brian Burke. He has been a full-time defenceman for Vancouver since the 2005-06 season, after parts of three seasons with the team’s then-AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.
Of his many memorable moments delivered on-ice in Vancouver, Bieksa’s most famous was undoubtedly his double-overtime winner in Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks in 2011, which capped the Western Conference Final for Vancouver and sent the Canucks to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1994.
VIDEO: Kevin Bieksa’s 2OT game-winner – 2011 Western Conference Final