Ducks Trading Josh Manson Signals New Era

The Anaheim Ducks traded veteran defenseman Josh Manson to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday for a second-round pick in the 2023 Draft and defensive prospect Drew Helleson. The trade was general manager Pat Verbeek’s first deal since being named to the position in early February, and it sends a clear message for the franchise: it’s a new era in Anaheim, and it can be built using the few remaining pieces from the last time the Ducks were a playoff team.

Josh Manson’s Tenure in Anaheim

Manson, like many of the veterans still on the roster, was one of the last holdovers of a past era in Ducks history. He was a sixth-round success story from the 2011 Entry Draft, and first appeared for the Ducks during the end of the 2013-14 season. The first part of his career was punctuated by several playoff runs and a career-high 37 points in 2017-18, the last year the Ducks qualified for the postseason.

Josh Manson Anaheim Ducks
Josh Manson, former Anaheim Duck (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While that offensive output was an outlier, Manson endeared himself to the organization and its fans with his hard-nosed, physical play. One example of this came in April 2017. The Ducks were playing against the Calgary Flames, a team they’d face in the playoffs a week later. Flames captain Mark Giordano went knee-to-knee with Cam Fowler, leaving Fowler needing to be helped off the ice and ultimately being out for a portion of the playoffs. Manson took exception, and the two dropped their gloves to fight. Manson got the better of Giordano, whipping the Honda Center crowd into a frenzy. Manson coming to the defense for his injured teammate became emblematic of his tenure in Anaheim, with this style of leadership earning him the title of alternate captain for each of the last three seasons.

Ducks’ 2022 Trade Deadline Looks to be Busier Than 2021

Last year’s trade deadline was a dud for Anaheim, who failed to make any significant move even with appealing players with term remaining on their contracts. Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts from Feb. 5, 2020, quoted an unnamed general manager saying, “your wife doesn’t love you as much as the Ducks love him (Manson).” This quote came to define the past few seasons of continuing decline with minimal signs that former general manager Bob Murray was willing to commit to a rebuild.

Related: Ducks News & Rumors: Chychrun, Kubalik & More

With Verbeek at the helm for less than two months, his trading of Manson signals a new era. With a week remaining before the trade deadline, he has time to negotiate with pending unrestricted free agents Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm before reaching a decision regarding their future. If reasonable deals can’t be reached, Verbeek appears ready to part with two more veterans in the name of future progress. He has stressed that these expiring contracts can’t leave with no return in free agency if deals can’t be reached, so a conclusion to these negotiations should be reached in the next week (from, ‘LeBrun: Pat Verbeek’s first trade deadline as Ducks GM will not be boring’, The Athletic, 02/28/22).

A New Era of Ducks Hockey in 2023

While the 2021-22 season for the Ducks had an exciting opening act, the young, upstart group has faltered down the stretch, and any hopes for the playoffs appear grim at this point. While it is disappointing, it serves as a reminder that this team is still flawed and the rebuild has yet to completely play out. The Ducks still have plenty of high-ceiling talent playing at the lower levels and will be contributing to the Ducks’ roster as soon as next season.

Drew Helleson, the prospect return for Manson, will likely be one of those players contributing soon. Helleson just finished his second year at Boston College and profiles to be a second- or third-pairing right-handed defenseman. With right-handers Jamie Drysdale presumably becoming the top option and Kevin Shattenkirk under contract for a few more seasons, Helleson can play sheltered minutes while he gains valuable NHL experience.

Drew Helleson Boston College
Drew Helleson, Boston College (Boston College Athletics)

The Ducks already boast a young roster, and they may only get younger depending on how this last week before the trade deadline plays out. If Rakell and Lindholm are traded for additional picks or prospects, the makeup of the Ducks’ roster in 2022-23 will be remarkably different from the years prior. Many of the players that saw playoff success in the past will be gone, with a new group of young players ready to take the next steps in their careers and create a new chapter in Ducks’ hockey.

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