The NHL’s best team by points percentage made the first major deal of the 2022 trade deadline season, as the Colorado Avalanche acquired defenseman Josh Manson in exchange for defense prospect Drew Helleson and a 2023 2nd round pick. Anaheim will also retain 50% of Manson’s cap hit, making it 2.05 million for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.
Josh Manson’s looming unrestricted free agency was a major reason for this deal, as newly hired Ducks General Manager Pat Verbeek publicly stated pending UFAs such as Manson, fellow defenseman Hampus Lindholm, and talented forward Rickard Rakell would be dealt at the deadline if no contract extension was agreed to. Of all defensemen available this trade season, Manson was one of the better ones in terms of AB, as he is a career -0.04 AB player in his seven-year NHL career. This season, in forty-five games played with the Ducks, Manson scored four goals (three-shy of his career-high), in addition to five assists for nine total points, his highest since 2019-20. At the midseason point, Manson had a -3.22 individual AB score, the second-lowest score registered by an Anaheim defenseman at that point, ahead of only Jamie Drysdale’s -5.07. After a promising start to the season, Anaheim has gone 2-6-2 in their last ten games, putting them seven points out of a playoff spot with eighteen games remaining in the season. We find it very likely that Lindholm and Rakell are dealt as well, as Anaheim will continue to gather assets for their pending free agents as opposed to letting them walk for nothing. This leaves them with eleven million dollars in projected cap space, allowing us to wonder if the Ducks could be a salary facilitator for a three-team trade similar to the ones made last deadline season. This could involve a draft pick or prospect coming to Anaheim in exchange for a 50% retained salary of an already 50% retained player by another team.
To address the return, Drew Helleson is widely regarded as a top-10 prospect in the Avalanche system, as the twenty-year-old defenseman is having a solid third season at Boston College under Hall-of-Famer Jerry York, scoring four goals with twenty-one assists for twenty-five points in thirty-two games. The former second-round pick has had a pretty successful run at the international level, winning a gold medal at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships with Team USA. In that tournament, Helleson registered two goals and two assists for four points in seven games, including an assist, +2 +/-, and nearly twenty minutes of ice time in the gold medal game. Helleson was also a United States Olympian at Beijing this year, where the US was upset by Slovakia in the Quarterfinal round. In that tournament, Helleson had an assist in three total games played. His success this past calendar year earned him an entry-level contract from Anaheim earlier this month, and he could be playing NHL games for the team before the end of the season.
In addition to Helleson, the Ducks also acquired a 2nd round pick in next year’s NHL draft, which most likely would’ve been a 1st round pick if Colorado still had one this year. They dealt their 1st rounder to the Arizona Coyotes this offseason in exchange for Darcy Kuemper with a condition that if their pick fell within the top-ten, Colorado would then transfer their 2023 1st. Given the fact the Avalanche currently has ninety-three points and leads the league in points percentage, it’s a certainty that the 2022 1st will belong to the Coyotes. Colorado also traded their 2022 2nd to the Islanders for Devon Toews, and their 2022 4th to Detroit for Patrik Nemeth last season, leaving them only with their 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th this year. However, if they are successful in the playoffs this year, that will all be meaningless. Colorado likely isn’t done, as they are rumored to still be alive in the Claude Giroux sweepstakes. The Avalanche and Ducks are definitely two of the more interesting teams this deadline season, as we will continue to follow their decisions all the way to the Monday afternoon trade deadline. Much more to come.