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Morning Papers take

Morning Papers Take: Kesler is going to get paid

How much is Ryan Kesler going to make this off-season?

This morning in the Western Conference Morning Papers, Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province pointed out that Ryan Kesler leads all U.S. born NHL players in scoring so far this season:

Kesler now has 16 points in 16 games and leads all American players in the NHL.

It was just two training camps ago when he talked about taking a bigger leadership role. He’s done that, and can now dictate how the Canucks play.

“I think everybody in this locker room wants to go on the ice and wants to be a game changer,” Kesler said.

“Every time I step on the ice, that’s the only thing on my mind. A couple of seasons ago it was defence, defence, defence. Now, I’m trying to push that offence really hard.”

It was only last season that Ryan Kesler agreed with his teammate Alexandre Burrows that certain Canucks players would have to take less to keep the current core of the team together.  While I know Kesler somewhat backed off those comments, we will see how honest he was really being when the time comes this upcoming summer.  That is because Kesler is an RFA after this season and is only making $1.75 million in 2009/10.  With Willie Mitchell the only really other significant free agent next summer, the Canucks almost have $41 million already tied up for 2010/2011.  Clearly the team will do what it can to keep Kesler but the days of him taking less have probably passed by.  The rugged American center leads the team in scoring, and has improved in the points-per-game department in each of his six NHL seasons. 

The question is: How much is Kesler going to get paid?  The player that most comes to mind as a comparable for me is R.J. Umberger.  Both players are big American centers that are able to play a two-way game and are very physical in the process.  Over his career, Umberger has posted 171 points in 323 games; whereas, Kesler has posted 153 points in 335 games.  So, Umberger has a points-per-game of .529, while Kesler has a points-per-game of .456.  Taking into account the fact that Umberger signed his contract last summer, he was the same age that Kesler will be this summer.  Umberger currently makes $3.75 million (cap hit) per season on a four-year deal.  Something tells me that Kesler’s agent will be shooting for $4.00 million this summer.

Taking less sounds good when you say it, but not when you have a chance to sign that big contract.  Time will tell, but something tells me there is no way Kesler takes less.  And you know what, who can blame him?