Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Kesler Extension a Gamble

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler agreed to a six-year contract extension that would keep him in California through the 2021-22 season. While the NHL reported that the financial terms were not released, the Orange County Register reported it’s worth $41.25 million with an average annual value of $6.875 million.

(This might come back to bite them.)

Kesler finished his first season with the Ducks, and recorded 20 goals and 47 points in 81 regular-season games, as well as seven goals and 13 points in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games. There is no denying the 30-year-old has talent. He is an Olympic Silver Medalist and one of the elite when it comes to the center position.

What is great about Kesler is his gritty style of play. He will go after players, hit them hard and grind them down. It must be exhausting for him to do day in and day out, but he does it. And he does it well. Kesler is also one of those guys you want on your special teams. He can lead on the power play and is an excellent defensive forward. He leads by example and has a great work ethic.

Here’s the thing: was this contract a great idea?

Ehhh, I think it’s a bit of a gamble. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have Kesler on my team and I am extremely happy he was born in the United States, but given his age and the style he chooses to play, I am just not sure he can keep up the level of play the Ducks will expect from him for six years.

This contract doesn’t even go into effect until the 2016-17 season because he has one year remaining on his current contract. That means Kesler will be 32 when his new contract begins and 37 when it expires. Hmm, that can be problematic. 

As Jonathan Willis of Bleacher Report put it, “it’s reminiscent of the old days in the NHL, when players didn’t hit free agency until age 31. As a result, many players hit the jackpot contract-wise just as the least effective years of their respective playing careers.”

I don’t believe Kesler is going to get any better than he already is. I believe his best years are behind him. I am not saying his production is going to plummet, but it is more likely that it will decline gradually. I am not just talking about points, but also his overall game. His hits won’t be as strong, he won’t be as fast, and his reaction time will slow.

Like I mentioned above, Kesler likes to mix it up. He has no problem throwing around the body. Even if he ups his training regiment, he cannot outrun time—it will eventually catch up to him. With that said, the Ducks, barring any major ailments or injuries, should get another three maybe even four good years out of him.

But that is still not enough to justify the entire contract.

It’s not just Kesler either. The Ducks now have three large contracts wrapped up in three players who are 30. Aside from Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are both under contract until the end of the 2020-21 season and each have a cap hit of more than $8 million. So in 2020-21 the Ducks will have about $18 million invested in three players who will be in their late 30s. Last season’s New Jersey Devils will tell you hockey is a young man’s game.

I have always been against a long-term contract, especially one that has a no-trade clause, which Kesler’s contract does. They rarely ever work out the way you expect them to (ask the New York Rangers about the Brad Richards’ contract) and you only get a couple of years out of them before they are demoted to the third or fourth line, and their ice time becomes nonexistent.

I get that the Ducks want to invest in their future, and they have made plenty of moves this summer that will have them once again vying for the Stanley Cup, but I feel they may have invested a bit too much in this deal.