Crunch time for Kesler

Vancouver Canucks' forward Ryan Kesler will have to have a career year this season, after signing a...

Vancouver Canucks' forward Ryan Kesler will have to have a career year this season, after signing a one-year $1.9 million deal. (Winnipeg Sun File Photo/John Woods)

BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 7:24 PM ET

It's the kind of contractual issue that can impact a player in two ways. Two completely opposing ways. Ryan Kesler could very well use the pressure of the deal to take his own professionalism and commitment to another level, tapping the most out of himself, and emerge as more prospect than suspect.

It's the best possible result for Kesler and the Canuck organization. The flip side, of course, is that the unrealistic expectations and pressure overwhelm him.

He gets off to a slow start, starts squeezing the stick, the fans howl and the media swarms. It goes with the territory. Territory Ryan Kesler never expected to be in. Not this soon anyway. He might smile a little more every payday ... but there could be some long nights in between.

We are about to watch a young man try to mature, in a hockey sense, much quicker than he is ready to.

Last week's offer-sheet shenanigans involving Bob Clarke, the Canucks and Kesler will not soon be forgotten. Clarke enhanced his reputation as the one GM who doesn't give a rat's backside about what anybody thinks of him.

The Canucks were forced to pay an unproven - yet promising - young talent $190,000 for every goal he scored last season.

And now that $1.9-million man has to live up to a contract he never imagined would come his way this early in his career.

You could understand Kesler saying all the right things in the wake of these developments.

He said he was honoured by the Canucks loyalty in the matter, respecting the fact the team could have let him walk to the City of Brotherly Love and arrogant general managers.

But Vancouver wasn't about to let a first rounder from 2003 depart for compensation that would amount to a mere second rounder next June.

Nonis was forced to match, and left somewhat limited as to what he could do with his roster in this salary cap age.

But the person most under scrutiny will be Kesler. How is this young man going to react under the pressure that goes with a player making more money than he should be?

Players are rewarded for what they have done, not what they are going to do.

Nonis says he thinks Kesler will someday evolve into the type of player who warrants the type of contract he ended up with.

It's unlikely he considers "someday" as this year, based on the inconsistency he showed last season. But the Canucks' GM did apply a not-so-subtle jab in Kesler's direction earlier this week when he said he would like "82 games from Kesler this season, the way he played about 15 last season." The message was clear.

"You didn't demand this money, but you are getting it. Now go out and earn it."

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Barry Macdonald is co-host of BS in the Morning on the Team 1040 from 6-9 a.m.


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