The Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim Ducks have trade history dating back to the Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner days and it’s now been a while since the two teams completed a trade together. This could be changing in the very near future as Maple Leaf’s general manager Kyle Dubas is working hard to upgrade his hockey club and may have to get creative as he’s pressed hard up against the salary cap. The trade chatter has picked up tremendously in Toronto these past few days and it feels like a move could be on the horizon, like a beautiful California sunset.
I’ve recently focused on some Maple Leafs’ trade targets on the Ottawa Senators and Seattle Kraken and some interesting names made the list. Let’s jump into the water with the Anaheim Ducks and examine two players who Toronto should target before the trade deadline.
The bruising defenseman has been linked to the Maple Leafs for quite some time as my colleague Peter Baracchini called Manson a “perfect match” dating back to Feb. 2020. Quite frankly, the Ducks defenseman is absolutely everything Toronto needs and more. The team was recently called “soft” by head coach Sheldon Keefe after an embarrassing collapse to the New York Rangers. Adding a physical specimen who loves to lay heavy hits, loves to drop the gloves and stick up for himself and teammates, and works hard each and every night could go a long way to changing the narrative of the team.
There’s more than just throwing some heavy hands to Manson’s game. He has the ability to make the first pass, he’s a better skater than many give him credit for and he’s shown in the past he can flirt with 40-point seasons. Right-handed defensemen are like unicorns in the NHL, you hear a lot about them but executives can’t seem to find any available. Anaheim’s defender is one of the best on the market, the Leafs will be one of a number of teams interested in the asking price.
The Ducks have surprised many this season with their team success, currently sitting 20-16-7 on the season after an impressive shorthanded win over the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. They sit second in the Pacific Division with 47 points, three points up on the second wild-card position. Because the points keep adding up, it’s going to take a solid offer from the Maple Leafs to get the Ducks to bite as they have their own playoff aspirations this season to worry about. We’ve seen in the past that the asking price of Manson out of Anaheim has been a hefty one.
The acquisition price noted above by Andy Strickland was last season and the only difference in 2021-22, is Manson is a pending unrestricted free agent. While the Ducks aren’t going to give him away, they may be more inclined to move him before the late March trade deadline just based on the fact they may want to cash in on their asset before he potentially leaves after the season.
So far in 41 games, the 30-year-old defenseman has recorded six points, playing over 20 minutes a night. He’s become a huge part of the Ducks penalty kill that ranks third overall in the entire NHL. Simply put, because of his style of play and versatile talents, the Leafs need to target Manson to upgrade their top-four for this season and beyond. He’s making $4.1 million in the final season of his contract, and the Saskatchewan native could be interested in one, approving a deal to the Maple Leafs as his no-trade protection covers him from 12 teams of his choice, and two, re-signing after the playoffs.
It’s likely not just a rental type of trade here and this is a player Dubas and company target to keep around in Toronto for the next few years. It would also be a complicated deal based on the fact the Ducks are in the playoff race and aren’t going to want to take a step back. Meaning, the trade can’t just be for prospects and picks. The Leafs should do everything they can to include Justin Holl, and not Timothy Liljegren in this trade, even if it means they have to include a higher profile prospect in the deal. Manson to the Maple Leafs would be the perfect fit, let’s see if the speculation brews into substance before the deadline.
Anaheim is in a tough position as two of the best defensemen are pending free agents. Lindholm, like Manson, is up for renewal and will be coming off a contract making $5.2 million per season. The two play completely different styles and certainly bring different elements to the rink. While his teammate is the security blanket on the ice, the 28-year-old former first-round pick is the finesse. He’s a great skater, can help out on the second power-play unit, and loves to get involved in the rush.
So far this season, Lindholm has recorded 16 points in 41 games. He would immediately give the Maple Leafs more stability in their top-four and would be a huge upgrade over both Holl and his partner Jake Muzzin. What about a deal that includes Muzzin going to the Ducks for Lindholm? The Leaf’s defender has two seasons left on his deal at $5.6 million and has shown at times this season that foot speed is becoming a problem. He holds no-trade protection against 10 teams but there’s a very good chance he would approve a deal back to California. The Leafs would need to add some sweetener, but again it feels like they are examining multiple different angles to create cap space without taking a step back.
Lindholm is the type of talent that would cost the Maple Leafs more than just sending Muzzin back to the beaches of California. That’s the kicker of all these trade targets. What exactly are the Maple Leafs ok with parting with and how many of their top prospects are on the table? There’s belief around their NHL roster that the likes of Muzzin, Holl, Travis Dermott, Pierre Engvall, Nick Ritchie, and Petr Mrazek are all available at the right price. Keep an eye on Lindholm in Anaheim, if it’s deemed that he is available on the trade market, Toronto will be one of the first in line for a conversation.
The Ducks and Maple Leafs are two teams who are in the thick of the playoff race and looking for ways to upgrade their rosters. Anaheim has almost $20 million in cap space and much more flexibility, meanwhile, Leaf’s management is a little more secure in a playoff spot but will have to be creative to finalize deals. Acquiring one of Manson or Lindholm would be a huge boost for the franchise. Let’s see if Dubas can put on his best Super Mario impression and go duck hunting.
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Shane’s been a part of The Hockey Writers team since 2020, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor, his versatile perspective on game results and everything off the ice produces diverse content. You can also find him on the Maple Leafs Lounge podcast with Peter Baracchini and Alex Hobson. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween