So much for breaking off contract talks until the end of the season. Just two hours ago, the Canucks announced that they have re-signed RFA Ryan Kesler to a six-year contract worth $30 million. Mike Gillis has been awfully busy of late, first calling up Michael Grabner in light of Mikael Samuelsson's injury then signing Jordan Schroeder to an entry level contract after a finishing a disappointing sophomore year with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Schroeder is likely to suit up Sunday for the Moose to make his highly anticipated professional debut after winning gold with the US at this year's World Junior Championships and becoming the US' highest scorer in world junior history along the way. Players coming from the CHL must be at least 20 years of age by December 31 of the season or play four years of junior to be eligible to play in the AHL, but because Schroeder is coming from the NCAA, he can start playing anytime after he turns 18 (he's 19 now, and 20 by September 2010). Cody Hodgson was allowed to play in the Moose's playoff run last year because the Brampton Battalion's season ended early, making him exempt from the rule. Contract numbers have not been released for Schroeder, but my guess is that's around the rookie maximum of $900,000 plus bonuses, which could be roughly $1-2 million, making his salary cap roughly in the $2-3 million range, much like the Kings' recently signed Brayden Schenn.
For Kesler, a question of simple math means that his cap hit will be $5 million per year (surely, the NHLPA won't reprimand him this time) and will remain a Canuck until the 2015-16 season, making him and Roberto Luongo the only players signed for that season. This is a fantastic signing by Gillis, locking up the Canucks' most versatile pivot for the next six years at a very reasonable price. With 64 points and counting, Kesler has emerged as one of the league's best centres. What he lacks in offensive output he makes up for in defense and energy as he will be considered for the Selke year-in and year-out along with perennial favourite Pavel Datsyuk ($6.7 million) and Philadelphia's Mike Richards ($5.75 million).
The Ohio State product has come a long way in the NHL and has indeed been a great find by the Canucks. Not since Trevor Linden have the Canucks drafted (1st round, 2003) and cultivated a player that has won the hearts of many by playing blue-collar hockey. Kesler didn't enter the organization with as much as pizazz and hype as Linden and took a few years before establishing himself as a two-way player but what an incredible journey that has been. Kesler's point totals (23, 16 in 48 games, 37, and 59) has increased in each of the past season's and when everyone thought he had hit his offensive ceiling last year, he (along with Alex Burrows) proved everyone wrong.
With Kesler signed, the Canucks have six other RFAs to deal with (Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen, Alex Bolduc, Tanner Glass, Shane O'Brien, Aaron Rome) and that's not including prized goaltender Cory Schneider. Kesler was the big fish that all teams had been keeping an eye on but now he's off the market. I think it's safe to say that Raymond, Hansen, Glass, and possibly Bolduc will be re-signed while the futures for O'Brien, Rome, and Schneider aren't as clear. In light of these recent movements, here's what the Canucks cap structure will look like for next year (numbers courtesy of CapGeek):