With Bob Murray signing Adam Henrique to a five-year $29.1 million extension, it appears the writing is on the wall for Ryan Kesler’s career. That might sound extreme, but the evidence is there.
The Ducks’ signing of Henrique does not mean that they have no use for Kesler, a healthy Kesler is obviously a more effective two-way center, but Henrique receiving his extension first rather than John Gibson or Jakob Silfverberg is a clear sign that Kesler is nearly done.
Ryan Kesler Faces Off for Team USA. Photo: Kris Krug
Elliotte Friedman’s May 25 report that Kesler may miss the 2018-19 season to return at full health for 2019-2020 did say Kesler was not contemplating retirement.
A month later, Eric Stephens of The Athletic published an article in which Murray gave mixed signals about his shut-down center.
From Stephens’ article:
“Well, there’s a concern level,” Murray said. “Of course, there is. But I think Kes has actually come out and said some things to a few people that if he feels as bad as he did this year that he doesn’t know if he can play anymore.”
But then Murray made his spaghetti comment, mentioned again in Felix Sicard’s article last week, only to follow it with:
“He had some injections,” the Ducks’ GM said. “Didn’t do anything too serious. And he thinks it’s getting better. He said to me the other day, ‘I feel like an athlete again.’ I don’t know what that means until he puts skates on.”
All of this negativity indicates that Murray doesn’t think the outlook is promising, and who could blame him if you consider Kesler’s injury history.
Victim of an “Epidemic”
The NHL has admitted there is an “epidemic” of hip injuries in hockey players, specifically FAI or Femoral Acetabular Impingement.
The author of that NHL.com article avoids going in-depth on the causes of FAI, but medical professionals have postulated that the repetitive hip movement involved in skating plays a role. Combine that with the fact that hockey players skate a lot when their bodies and bones are still developing, and you have the recipe for FAI.
What does that have to do with Kesler? A lot.
Following the Vancouver Canucks’ Stanley Cup Finals loss to the Boston Bruins in 2011, Kesler underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. This was actually his second hip labrum repair, after undergoing a procedure in 2007. That makes Kesler’s June 2017 hip surgery his third in just over 10 years.
Two labrum repairs and a bone fragment removal procedure scream FAI. But don’t take it from me, I’m not a doctor.
According to former Minnesota Wild team Physician Christopher Larson, FAI can cause labral tears and bone fragments. Even though his presentation focuses on goalies, it’s clear skaters suffer from FAI as well.
Kesler bounced back nicely from his 2007 and 2011 hip surgeries but returning from a hip procedure in your early 20s is one thing, coming back from a third at age 33 (almost 34) is another entirely.
"Ryan Kesler" Photo: Loxy
A study on FAI by the American Journal of Sports Medicine found the following:
“Hockey players were able to continue playing for an average of 5.9 years after surgery. However, those players who continued to play five or more years after arthroscopy were significantly younger than those who did not. Additionally, athletes who played less than five years after arthroscopy had a longer average duration of symptoms before surgery when compared with those who played five or more years.”
It’s obvious to me, considering all of the information and rumors surrounding Kesler that his career is nearly over if it isn’t already.
This presents an interesting opportunity for the Ducks. Putting Kesler on LTIR can help with cap flexibility, but it all depends on how Murray goes about it, and how much of their cap space they spend before the season begins.
If you want to suffer a math stroke, you can check out the LTIR rules here and come up with some scenarios yourself.
LTIR Creates Options
Obviously, Kesler’s contract is brutal for the Ducks, and now that he’s struggling with a potentially career-ending injury, he likely won’t be tradeable. That means if Anaheim spends to near the cap, they can put Kesler on LTIR as long as he’s going to miss 10 NHL games and 24 regular season days.
This allows Murray to potentially sign another unrestricted free agent or trade for someone as long as they stay beneath the new limit established by Kesler going on LTIR.
This also gives them more flexibility calling up and sending down players if the Ducks do butt up against the cap.
Considering Kesler’s injury history, his time in the NHL is drawing to a close, whether that's this season, or next.