The Colorado Avalanche made the first serious move of the NHL’s trade season with one week to spare, acquiring defenseman Josh Manson from the Anaheim Ducks on Monday.
It’s a move that offers a completive element to one of the top defensive corps and teams in all of hockey. Fully-formed after eight seasons in the league, Manson should fit in wonderfully as a steadying presence on the second pair with dynamic puck-mover Sam Girard for the league’s first-place team.
Beyond that, it’s also a potentially instructive move that will provide a reference point to which all corresponding trades in the six days leading up to the deadline will be measured to.
Colorado didn’t pay an exorbitant price to acquire Manson, much less to land him at a reduced salary figure. It took a (presumed) late second-round draft selection in 2023 and defensive prospect Drew Helleson in order to acquire the capable top-four defender and pure rental. Helleson does have NHL potential and can perhaps develop into a defender comparable to Manson, while draft selections in the 50-60 range overall are far from sure things in terms of predictive futures value.
It could prove to be a decent haul over time, but on the surface Anaheim’s return falls short of what the Tampa Bay Lightning paid for David Savard last season, for example.
What that means for the rest of the trade market is unclear.
On one hand, Manson could have severely limited Anaheim’s leverage throughout the negotiation process by wielding the no-move provision in his contract. He didn’t just end up with the highest bidder at the end of the negotiation process; he wound up with the most attractive destination for a veteran player looking to both chase a championship and cash in on future success.
It’s also entirely possible that Manson’s move signals that the competitiveness within the trade market has been overblown over the last few weeks, and that the surplus of sellers will keep prices down on the many players believed to be available through trade.
This is a particularly worrisome sign for the Montreal Canadiens, who have made it clear that their own disposable blueliner, Ben Chiarot, will cost a first-round pick in order to pry loose. It seems entirely possible that new GM Kent Hughes will fall short of that goal in the aftermath of Manson moving for less — at least when considering the predictive value of draft picks.
Sounds like #Habs will be sitting out D Ben Chiarot tonight for asset protection ahead of a likely trade over next six days.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) March 15, 2022
On the flip side, patience could benefit teams like Toronto, Florida, St. Louis and New York, who each are rumoured to be in the market for help on the back end.
Between Chiarot, Hampus Lindholm, Jakob Chychrun, John Klingberg, Mark Giordano, Justin Braun, Damon Severson and Nick Leddy among others rumoured to available, there may be more defenders with price tags than teams looking to fill holes on their back end.
That’s the very definition of a buyer’s market.
Manson’s deal should offer fans and media hope, then, that there will be feverish action at the end of this dead period in the schedule, while also eliminating excuses for teams who have made a habit of drumming them up.
That is, aside from the ones left holding the bag — or in this case the defenceman on an expiring contract.
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