Since the beginning of the season, even before Pat Verbeek took over as general manager, the Anaheim Ducks have been one of the most talked-about teams in the league when it comes to potential trades. Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson, and Hampus Lindholm, all on expiring contracts, could be huge pieces that move at next month’s deadline. The Ducks meanwhile are still in a playoff hunt, even with their recent struggles. The team is at 25-21-9 on the season and just three points out of a divisional playoff spot, let alone the wildcard race.
Recently, reports emerged that the team has reached out to Lindholm’s camp to try and make progress on a potential extension. The question then became whether the team would try to continue those negotiations through the trade deadline if a deal hadn’t yet been hammered out. Verbeek made it pretty clear how he feels about that while speaking with Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic:
I think going into this, I’m looking at it like we could make the playoffs, we could miss the playoffs. At the end of the day, there’s no guarantee I can get those three free agents back. I’m going to attempt to sign them, if it doesn’t happen, I just can’t let them walk out the door free.
With just three weeks to go before the March 21 deadline, the Ducks have nine games to show Verbeek whether they’re true playoff contenders–though that may not even matter. They could win all nine and it seems as though the new GM would have to move on, should extensions not be on the table with Rakell, Manson, and Lindholm.
For Anaheim, this isn’t just one crucial player that they might normally keep for a stretch run. These are three sought-after talents that could bring back assets that could drastically change the direction of the franchise. Lindholm alone will bring back a huge package if he’s dealt, especially if an acquiring team believes they can sign him long-term. At 28, he is still in the prime of his career as a true first-pairing defenseman capable of playing in all situations. Averaging nearly 23 minutes a game, Lindholm has 20 points in 53 games, plays hard defensive matchups, and logs plenty of time on the penalty kill.
Manson and Rakell too could bring back substantial packages, if lesser ones than Lindholm. The former is a tough-as-nails defensive defenseman that punishes attackers in front of the net and in the corners, though his offensive upside is limited. The latter, a two-time 30-goal scorer, is having a nice bounce-back season with 14 goals and 25 points in 45 games and could likely slot into the top-six on several contenders. The fact that all three of them come at reasonable cap hits–Lindholm at $5.2MM, Manson at $4.1MM, and Rakell at $3.8MM–makes them a possible target for almost anyone, especially if the Ducks ate a bit of salary for the post-deadline stretch of games.
The Ducks already have a wave of young talent making an impact at the NHL level, making this a crucial set of decisions for Verbeek that could have a serious impact on the league’s playoff picture for years to come. There’s no guarantee that any future picks or prospects ever turn into someone like Lindholm, and taking him out of this lineup could have serious ramifications. Fans of the team should be happy to hear that their big assets aren’t going to be allowed to walk away for nothing though, which would certainly seem like the worst of the three possible outcomes in this situation even if they do make a playoff run this season.