When the Carolina Hurricanes signed Jake Gardiner last week, speculation immediately erupted about the future of Justin Faulk. The right-handed Faulk has just one year remaining on his contract before hitting unrestricted free agency and was made expendable—at least on the powerplay—by the depth of the Carolina blueline. Now, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that the Anaheim Ducks have had discussions with Carolina about the defenseman. Friedman notes that the Ducks are on Faulk’s no-trade list but would also like to work out an extension, and makes it clear that the deal is not done at this point. James Mirtle of The Athletic tweets that Faulk’s 15-team no-trade clause has been “causing issues” for Carolina as they try to move him.
Once considered a haven for young defensemen, the Anaheim blueline depth has become thinner and thinner over the last few years. The Ducks have watched Shea Theodore, Sami Vatanen and Brandon Montour leave town through various trades, leaving Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson as the lone three defensemen the team can really count on this season. While Brendan Guhle, Josh Mahura and Jacob Larsson provide some interesting upside, adding Faulk would give the team another established name to line up in their top-four every night.
That said, the deal wouldn’t make much sense for Anaheim without the contract extension. The Ducks have turned their focus to the next wave of forwards coming through the system and will be without long-time core pieces like Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. That young group is exciting and talented, but could very well leave Anaheim chasing in the Pacific Division. Faulk is just 27 however and should be able to contribute at a high level for the next several seasons.
That high level is impressive in this case. Faulk has been one of the most consistent offensive defensemen in the NHL over his career, recording at least 31 points in each of the last six seasons. Though he’s prone to a bad turnover and isn’t a star in his own end, there’s good reason to believe that he could have a lot of success in Anaheim if paired with Lindholm or Fowler.
For Carolina, moving on from their former co-captain made the most sense after Gardiner was acquired. Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are all signed for at least two seasons, while young Haydn Fleury and Jake Bean look ready to contribute. If the team can add some more offense or future assets in exchange for the expiring Faulk, it will only help them improve their own program that got all the way to the Eastern Conference Final last season.