They thought they were in position to acquire the veteran center who plays with a physical edge from the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline in March, only to have the deal fall apart at the last minute.
On Friday they traded defenseman Luca Sbisa and center Nick Bonino and the 24th pick in the draft to the Canucks. The deal also involves a swap of third-round draft choices.
The 29-year-old Kesler, known for his strong two-way play, has a no-trade clause and has said he would only waive it for a limited number of teams. He won the Selke Trophy in 2011 and was a dominant player in the league from about 2009 to 2011.
A series of injuries, though, have taken a toll. His numbers have dropped from 73 points in the 2010-11 season to 43 this past regular season. Kesler had shoulder surgery after the Canucks lost to the Kings in the first round of the playoffs in 2012 and missed most of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
The Ducks were in serious need of a quality No. 2 center after they opted not to bring back veteran Saku Koivu. It helps them match up better against their Southern California rivals, the Stanley Cup champion Kings, who have the deepest collection of centers in the league.
Kesler's ability in the faceoff circle was one of the most attractive parts of his resume. The Ducks were ranked 14th of 16 playoff teams in faceoff percentage.
The swap of third-round draft choices will mean that the Canucks receive Anaheim's 85th overall pick this year, and the Ducks will get Vancouver's third-round pick next year.
"This trade reinforces our goal to add youth, support our core players and develop draft picks who will contribute to the future success of our team," said Canucks General Manger Jim Benning. "Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa are talented players who immediately bring youth and skill to our roster. An additional first- and third-round pick gives us the opportunity to add two strong players to our system."
The swap of third-round picks will mean the Canucks receive Anaheim's (85th overall) this year, and the Ducks will get Vancouver's next year.
"This trade reinforces our goal to add youth, support our core players and develop draft picks who will contribute to the future success of our team," said Canucks General Manger, Jim Benning. "Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa are talented players who immediately bring youth and skill to our roster. An additional first and third round pick gives us the opportunity to add two strong players to our system."
"Last year, that season was tough on all the players on the Canucks," said Kesler, on a conference call. "I hate losing. That season was painful, to be honest. The fact that they are in a rebuild and are looking to get younger and are years away from being a contender, I think it was just time for me to move on and win and hopefully take home a championship.
"I'm turning 30. Not only do I want to win the Stanley Cup, but I want to be a big part of winning a Stanley Cup. I'm not getting any younger. I want to win a championship. With the direction their team is going, us and management just made the decision that it was time to move on."
Kesler had two teams on his list -- Anaheim and Chicago.
"Saying that, there was other teams that were on my list previously," he said. "But I was on the fence with them, with coaching changes and what not. To be honest, I was only asked to waive my no-trade to Anaheim.
"I guess a deal was done and it happened fast. It caught me by surprise. But I'm happy that it happened today."
Bonino, who was the Ducks' third-leading scorer last season with 82 points and ranked second in power-play goals, was not entirely surprised.