Oilers Should Look to Ducks to Trade for a Top-4 Defenceman

The goaltenders for the Edmonton Oilers have all the blame placed on them. Except they have had the most defencemen man-games lost to injury this season and injuries in net have also hurt their consistency. They also have a mix of veteran and young defencemen, and with younger players, especially on the back-end, there have been growing pains.

They have Evan Bouchard who is enjoying a breakout season but has also struggled recently defensively and with his turnover rate. Markus Niemelainen and Philip Broberg are also with the team and could find full-time roles as soon as next season.

The Anaheim Ducks started the season very well and were right in the playoff race in the weaker Pacific Division up until recently. They have just been passed by the Vancouver Canucks and now sit sixth. The Ducks are just 3-6-1 in their past 10 games and have put together three different four-game losing streaks in the past 26 games. With them falling out of playoff contention by the day, they should consider selling at the trade deadline to help them be even more competitive in the future.

The Ducks have two legitimate top-four defencemen that will be unrestricted free agents in the offseason and could realistically test the market. Both Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm are in the prime of their careers and will be looking for five to six-year deals. They are also great trade chips if they decide to sell some of their more valuable pieces at the trade deadline.

How Josh Manson Would Fit on the Right Side

Tim Campbell of NHL.com discussed Jay Woodcroft’s strategy since he was hired and how things have changed for the Oilers. Woodcroft said, “We put a lot of emphasis on our work back to our zone, our organization coming into D-zone coverage and making sure that we were clear with what our responsibilities are.”

The goals against per game have decreased from 3.32 to 2.83 since Woodcroft and Dave Manson took over. Funny enough, that is part of the reason why they might entice Manson to take the Oilers off his 12-team no-trade list and even join the team long-term.

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

The defensive strategy put in place has clearly helped Mikko Koskinen since it was implemented, and also allowed the younger defencemen to ease into playing against tougher competition at the NHL level. There would be a spot for not only the short-term but long-term in the top four if Manson chooses to join the Oilers. His style of play and defensive capabilities would complement Darnell Nurse and give him a consistent partner too, as Bouchard, Tyson Barrie, and Cody Ceci have all spent time on his right side this season.

Related: Oilers Can Cheaply Replace Mike Smith to Upgrade Goaltending Position

Manson is fifth on a crowded defensive group in Anaheim and the Ducks seem to have taken favour to Jamie Drysdale, their future, and Kevin Shattenkirk, who’s having a great year, over him. Manson is focused on the defensive side of the game while the other two are more offensively-minded, so he is still used in important situations and is relied upon defensively.

Manson has the highest defensive start percentage among Ducks defencemen and logs the second-most time on the penalty kill as well. Despite starting 58.9 percent of the draws in his defensive zone, he still managed to sport a Fenwick of over 50 percent, meaning his team controls the puck more when he’s on the ice and also gets more shot attempts that make it through past a block.

The Oilers are in need of another shutdown right-shot defender who can kill penalties efficiently and help shut down top lines with Nurse. Manson would fit right into the Oilers’ system and be supported a ton since Woodcroft and Manson have taken over the team and defensive strategy, allowing for Nurse to take more chances offensively and even score at the pace he did last season.

Lindholm is an Underrated Upgrade to the Defence

David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period states that the rental market for a left-shot defenceman seems to be held up by what the Ducks are going to do with Lindholm as he is a top-four defenceman that can provide both offence and defence. He leads his team in even-strength points but also logs over two minutes of ice time on the penalty kill per game with great underlying numbers when he’s on the ice defending in shorthanded situations (from “What does Hampus Lindholm’s future with the Ducks look like?”, The Athletic, Feb. 20, 2022).

Lindholm is second on the Ducks in average ice time per game and can put up goals, points, blocked shots, and hits. If the Oilers were to acquire him, they might be more comfortable pairing him with a Bouchard or Barrie to complement their offence and also cover for them on defensive lapses. They would also be able to shift away from the seven defencemen strategy they’ve been running since they would have three seasoned defencemen lining the left side.

Hampus Lindholm Anaheim Ducks
Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The holdup in making a decision on whether to move Lindholm is more based on whether he will re-sign with the team, because as Pagnotta goes on to say, “there is no way they (Ducks) are going to let him walk to free agency and test the waters, taking that risk of losing him for nothing.”

Elliotte Friedman stated that the Ducks are concerned with giving Lindholm term on his next deal. This should be less of a concern than the money seeing as he is only 28 years old and is a reliable top-four two-way defenceman (from “Ducks GM Pat Verbeek reiterates desire to re-sign Hampus Lindholm, others”, Orange County Register, March 5, 2022).

If a deal hasn’t been struck by now, there’s not much time to do so before the deadline on March 21. More than likely the Ducks will decide to move Lindholm, and for the right price, the Oilers should be looking at him. He would be an upgrade to Niemelainen, Broberg, and William Lagesson at the moment, but he would be seen as more of a rental than Manson. Lindholm has played in the playoffs and has experience matching up against the opponent’s top players, so he could take the pressure off of Duncan Keith to play as much and in turn, use each to their strengths.

There’s still much to be done in Edmonton, and even with Woodcroft getting his players to focus on the here and now rather than long-term outcomes, that should still be Ken Holland’s main goal in creating stability for the Oilers.

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