Time is ticking on Anaheim Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek, who now has fewer than one month to make a decision on whether to trade or hold onto some of the most sought-after pending free agents in the league. Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson, and Hampus Lindholm are all on expiring contracts and could bring back quite a few assets on the trade market, but are also key members of a Ducks team that is trying to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
There is of course the possibility that the Ducks extend any one of those players before the deadline, taking out any risk of losing them for nothing in the offseason. That appears to be the tactic Verbeek is trying to take with Lindholm, as Pierre LeBrun explained on TSN’s Insider Trading:
When you talk to other teams around the league, they view Hampus Lindholm as the number one rental defenseman on the market–if he is indeed on the market. One of the first things that Pat Verbeek has done is reach out to Lindholm’s camp, led by agent Claude Lemieux, and start the process of seeing if there is enough common ground to sign an extension before the trade deadline, to remove Hampus Lindholm from the trade market. That would be a heartbreaker for a lot of teams who would love to throw some assets at Anaheim for a player who plays 23 minutes a night on the top pairing.
Earlier in the segment, Darren Dreger had noted that the Toronto Maple Leafs could now be interested in Lindholm after Jake Muzzin’s recent injury, though they will have to take their time to see what his recovery timeline is like. Of course, the Maple Leafs wouldn’t be the only team interested in the 28-year-old Lindholm. One of the most consistent two-way performers in the league since the moment he entered the NHL, Lindholm has 20 points in 50 games this season while playing in all situations. There’s no one that averages more even-strength ice time on the Ducks than the 6’4″ defenseman, and he has shown an ability to contribute both on the powerplay and penalty kill.
If you’re looking for someone who can reshape your entire defense corps, Lindholm is the kind of talent you can target. Though with any player like that, it will come at a cost. Not only will Lindholm cost you a big package at the deadline, but any team hoping to extend him after acquiring him would need to put a huge offer forward. Just recently, Eric Stephens of The Athletic suggested that on any extension, the pending free agent defenseman would be looking at a raise over the $6.75MM he earns this season, making him a huge commitment to any team, including the Ducks. Lindholm himself told Stephens that being on a competitive team in the playoffs is important to him, something that Anaheim is still chasing.
The Ducks currently sit just outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference, two points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the final wildcard spot. That’s with 52 games played though, the most in the league and two more than both Los Angeles and the Edmonton Oilers, who currently hold the final spot in the Pacific Division. With a negative goal differential on the season and a so-so record recently, it’s not clear that the exciting Ducks will be able to actually take that next step and contend this season.
It does seem that playoff contention is coming though, with young talents like Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras, Isac Lundestrom, and Jamie Drysdale already showing how dynamic they can be at the NHL level. Third-overall pick Mason McTavish will be there soon enough to help, meaning on a long-term deal, Lindholm could certainly expect several years of postseason play in Anaheim.