Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/6/2009 (4757 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Probably wise on both counts.
Luongo is a poker fanatic who spent Wednesday trying to win other people's money in a gambling tournament sanctioned by the NHL, and Kesler is a longshot against co-finalists Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyer Mike Richards.
"If I was a betting man, I probably wouldn't bet on myself," Kesler said. "But just to be nominated is pretty special. Obviously, I'd really like to win, but it's two great players there. I wouldn't know who to pick. I want to just enjoy the moment and take everything in."
Kesler is so not Vegas. He rarely gambles even on the ice, which is partly why the 24-year-old is the first Canuck to be voted a finalist for Frank Selke's award that goes annually to the NHL's best checking forward.
Kesler makes safe plays and, driven by his speed and competitiveness, has become one of the league's best two-way forwards. He was the most valuable Canuck this season as he scored 26 goals and 59 points while going plus-8 against the opposition's first line.
A smart betting man would wager that Kesler, not goaltender Luongo, will be the first Canuck to sign a long-term extension this summer.
Canucks GM Mike Gillis said before leaving for Vegas that he'd be speaking with both players to get an idea how they might like to proceed on July 1, when teams are eligible to extend contracts due to expire after next season.
Luongo is due to become an unrestricted free agent next July. Kesler would be a restricted free agency with, likely, a load of leverage in salary arbitration. He'll make US$1.75 million next year, Luongo US$7.5 million.
"We've had some preliminary discussions with him," Gillis said of Luongo, who has said he'll stay in Vancouver if he feels the Canucks have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. "Very preliminary. It's been just sort of: 'When do you want to talk about some stuff?' We'll probably get at it this week and (next week) at the (NHL entry) draft in Montreal. We'll find a time to get together and spend a few minutes having a chat."
Of Kesler, Gillis said: "He's a player I'm very pleased with and has a lot of features that I like. We've talked about when we're going to get together. I know he wants to be here. I think that he brings a tonne to the game. As he develops emotionally and mentally, he'll get even better."
Kesler's maturation is as impressive as his progress as a player. He still chirps at opponents, but no longer gets distracted by it and has developed into a team leader. He is the team's only alternate captain under 30 and is being groomed for bigger things.
Three months ago, Kesler lectured about the need for Canucks players to accept less money and said he'd take a pay cut to stay in Vancouver.
It was both honest and naive of Kesler and uncomfortable for some teammates. The remarks earned Kesler sharp rebukes from agent Kurt Overhardt and the NHL Players' Association.
When Kesler defers contract questions to his agent, that's another sign of how far he has come. So was Kesler's invitation in Las Vegas to assist Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin in a motion-capture exercise for a game developer.
"I think they want me to pass to him," Kesler said. Too bad. Kesler should have been checking Ovechkin.
-- Canwest News Service