Canucks opt to keep Kesler

The Vancouver Canucks retained forward Ryan Kesler on Thursday by matching the one-year, $1.9-million US offer sheet he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Forward Ryan Kesler is sticking with the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks retained the services of the restricted free agent Thursday by matching the one-year, $1.9-million US offer sheet he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Kesler, 22, was paid $722,000 US by Vancouver last season and the Canucks were trying to re-sign him for roughly same amount.

But the Flyers were willing to pay Kesler top dollar because they needed a replacement for captain Keith Primeau, who retired Thursday.

"We all have the same [salary] cap," Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said. "We all operate in the same world.

"They had all summer to sign this guy. It was three days before training camp, he's not signed, we're going to lose Primeau, so we took a shot at getting another centre."

Had the Canucks declined to match the offer sheet, they would have received a second-round draft pick as compensation.

But GM Dave Nonis decided to bite the bullet at the cost of extra cap space.

"Dave has always said he wanted to have a little room to move," Canucks forward Brendan Morrison said. "Now this pinches us a little more.

"I'm sure if we need to make a move, Dave will figure a way around it."

It was the first noteworthy offer sheet since the Carolina Hurricanes tried to pry free-agent forward Sergei Fedorov from the Detroit Red Wings with a six-year, $28-million US offer sheet in 1998.

Detroit chose to keep Fedorov and matched the offer, a wise decision because he helped win Stanley Cups in 1998 and 2002.

"Everyone was a little surprised it actually happened," Morrison said. "It is sort of the unwritten code GMs don't do that to each other.

"You cannot blame Kesler, what is he supposed to do? The Flyers send in the offer sheet, is he supposed to turn it down?"

Kesler posted 10 goals and 13 assists for 23 points in 82 games last season.

Drafted 23rd overall by Vancouver in 2003, he had two goals and five points in 28 games during the 2003-04 season.

With files from the Canadian Press