According to Sportsnet's Dan Murphy, the star center could be out of the lineup for over a month.
#canucks Kesler has a fractured foot. He'll likely be out for a little while according to AV. Maybe 4-6 weeks.— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) February 27, 2013
Even if Kesler is expected to come back for the playoffs and be at 100 percent, can the Canucks depend on him to remain healthy through the postseason?
Given his recent history of injury problems, general manager Mike Gillis cannot rely on the 28-year-old star to be healthy on a consistent basis when he returns to the team.
Vancouver has lost two straight games by a combined score of 12-5, and since a February 12 win over the Minnesota Wild, the team has lost five of its last seven games.
The team hasn't played well defensively over the last two weeks (3.57 GAA in last seven games), so any possible trade that Gillis makes before the April 3 deadline must include a good defensive forward or two going to the Canucks.
AV says Andrew Ebbett is a strong possibility to return in order to help at centre. #canucks— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) February 27, 2013
Gillis' best option to improve his team after learning about Kesler's latest injury is to trade for a top-six center who can replace Kesler and give the team some playmaking, defense, grit and scoring depth.
The ideal situation for Gillis would be to make a move without giving up one of his goaltenders, but keeping Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider and making a substantial deadline move could be quite difficult.
If the Canucks really want to make a Stanley Cup run in 2013, they should strongly consider making an offer for Colorado Avalanche restricted free agent Ryan O'Reilly.
Since the Avalanche and the Canucks will not be in the same division next year if the latest realignment plan is adopted (via Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports), Colorado could trade O'Reilly to Vancouver and not have to worry about playing against him six times each season.
With that said, Gillis should make a strong effort to acquire the 22-year-old center. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported an update on O'Reilly's situation Saturday night:
There is talk a decision on the future of holdout Colorado centre Ryan O'Reilly will be made soon. The two sides have reached an impasse and GM Greg Sherman could finally be ready to make a trade.
Which player would be a better fit in Vancouver?
O'Reilly is the perfect replacement for Kesler because of his elite two-way game and ability to shut down the top goal scorers on the opposing team. He wins faceoffs, blocks shots and would add some much-needed grit and toughness to the Canucks lineup.
If the Canucks could acquire O'Reilly and not have to give up one of their two NHL goalies, Gillis must make a deal. Vancouver does have a number of top-tier forward prospects to include in a potential deadline deal, including 2012 first-round pick Brendan Gaunce (center) and Nicklas Jensen (left wing).
Another trade target for the Canucks should be Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss, who is a quality scorer and responsible defensively. Weiss is an upcoming UFA, and he has not been productive offensively this season with just one goal and three assists through 14 games.
A change of scenery would likely benefit the 29-year-old forward, especially if he were traded to a legitimate contender like the Canucks. Vancouver could certainly use another player who is determined to win his first Stanley Cup championship.
The Canucks were a very good team before Kesler returned to the lineup on February 15, so even without him in the lineup, they can still contend in the Western Conference.
However, adding another top-six forward with a solid two-way game would really bolster this team's chances of winning the Stanley Cup, so Gillis should be actively pursuing an impact player for his top-six forward group before the trade deadline.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.