Sit down and pull up a comfy chair because it’s time for the annual Ducks defensemen trade speculation extravaganza!
The Ducks trade market is dictated by two primary factors, both of which have been covered extensively as of late:
- They have a massive backlog of blue-liners.
- They are currently struggling to stay under the NHL salary cap.
In addition to the current defensive mainstays (Fowler, Manson, Vatenen, Lindholm, and Bieksa), the Ducks have youngsters who get sparse time on the ice (Holzer, Theodore, Montour) as well as the injured Clayton Stoner recovering from surgery.
Looking at the prospect pipeline, the Ducks have Jacob Larsson, Marcus Pettersson, and Andy Welinksi currently developing in their respective junior leagues.
That’s 11 defensemen currently with the team or with the potential to make the team within the next few years. Not to mention the fact that only 3 of those 11 defensemen listed are over the age of 25.
I think I’ve made my point.
As for the cap situation, capfriendly.com currently has the Ducks around $1.1 million under the current salary cap of $73 million (Simon Despres and Nate Thompson, both on LTIR, do not count against the current cap).
What does this lead us to? First, the Ducks will need to deal at least one of their young defensemen. And second, whatever the Ducks get back in the trade cannot exceed $1.1 million in additional contracts (probably closer to $3 million since Nate Thompson is slated to come off of LTIR around late February/March).
What do the Ducks need? Great question, thanks for asking!
The most obvious need is for a young(ish), relatively cheap, goal-scoring winger (left or right doesn’t matter as much as it did last season).
As for what they can get rid of, I believe that it could go a number of different ways. Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Shea Theodore, and Brandon Montour are pretty much considered untouchable by the organization at this point in the season. Everyone else I would say is movable for the right price (especially Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson).
I consider Fowler to be untouchable because he literally played himself out of being traded earlier this season and the Ducks know that unless they’re a team that does not expect to compete for a cup this spring, you don’t trade your highest performing defensemen at the deadline.
Now that we have these parameters, let’s take a look at some trade scenarios, shall we?
I’ll start with this one right off the bat because it’s the most obvious. Colorado is in the middle of accidentally building a giant tank that exists solely to wage war on the hopes and dreams of Avs fans everywhere. TSN’s Travis Yost wrote an article recently illustrating just how hard they’re losing the season; rivaling the legendary Buffalo Sabres tank in the 2014-2015 season during the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes.
With a lack of talent outside of Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson on the blue line, Colorado will be looking to add to their barren defense corps. They have two very tradable assets in captain Gabriel Landeskog ($5.57 million cap hit) and Matt Duchene ($6 million cap hit) and will no doubt be looking to deal one or both of them.
The Avs are currently $1.2 million under the cap this season and will have more than $20 million in room come June, so while their cap situation is tight right now, it’s not quite the land mine the Duck’s is.
The tricky part of this trade would be the money since both teams are so close to the cap. However, young, puck-moving defensemen carry a premium that only seems to be rising as the season goes on, so the Ducks could potentially convince Colorado to take on all or part of a contract to move one of their defensemen like Vatanen or Manson.
These two teams have a well-documented history as trade partners. While Toronto has some young blue line prospects with high potential, they could use a blue-liner with NHL experience to help guide them and create a reliable anchor on the back end.
Plus, with all of their rookies, the Maple Leafs have some cap room to work with.
Who could they part with? A forward, obviously. The Leafs have young scoring depth for years to come, so they definitely could spare some of that talent to help the back end.
James Van Riemsdyk has been linked to Ducks rumors since last year when Frederik Andersen trade speculation began. He’s a potential 20+ goal scorer with good speed and with the potential to fit well into the Ducks heavy, crash-front-of-the-net offensive style.
As we saw the other night when the Ducks played the Red Wings, defense is huge area of concern for the team. Likely to finally break their 25 season playoff run this year, Detroit will be looking to sell come deadline time, barring a remarkable turnaround.
Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist have been linked to the Ducks defensmen trade rumors in the past. Both are potential 20+ goal scorers and are in their primes. Tatar would be the preferable option here for the Ducks as he’s a year younger (27 as opposed to 28) and carries a significantly smaller cap hit of $2.75 million compared to Nyquist’s $4.75 million.
Thomas Vanek could also be in the discussion, though he’s now 32 years old and is a UFA after this season. It’s likely that the Ducks wouldn’t want to part with one of their young defensemen for just Vanek unless they could get Detroit to take Stoner as well. This is unlikely because Detroit is in an even worse situation cap-wise than the Ducks, unless they want to go for a full-on fire sale.
The teams and scenarios I’ve just gone through represent only the most likely situations. However, it’s very possible that, as the deadline approaches and standings shift, other fits for the Ducks could manifest themselves. It’s also worth keeping in mind that while this article focuses on deadline moves, an expansion draft is still on the horizon. There’s no doubt that some of the moves made on February 28th will be affected by this.
The value of young, puck-moving defensemen is only going to grow as the February 28th trade deadline approaches. This puts the Ducks in a position of power, but also in a position of weakness due to their cap issues when considering the Ducks needs on offense.
Will the Ducks move a defensemen for a winger at the trade deadline? Given the team’s play so far this season, I would venture to guess that it seems likely. But if Anaheim can lock down their defensive issues and chip in a couple more goals on most nights and go on a power run through the league, then they may as well just stand pat.
The deadline is almost two months away. A lot can still change.