Anaheim Ducks: Maple Leafs Draft Day Loss Creates Trade Opportunity

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 7: Josh Manson #42 of the Anaheim Ducks skates against Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 7: Josh Manson #42 of the Anaheim Ducks skates against Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs loss during the second phase of the draft lottery could create a trade opportunity for the Anaheim Ducks.

The results of the second round of the first round of the draft – or whatever they want to call the farce that allowed Edmonton, Pittsburgh, and Toronto a 12.5% chance at the #1 overall draft selection  – is now in the bag. While it didn’t truly impact the Anaheim Ducks at face value, we can certainly all come together and rejoice upon the fact that the Oilers and the Penguins didn’t end up with the prized pick. What may be more interesting to Ducks fans, however, is the state the Maple Leafs have left themselves in.

Toronto currently has $40,489,366 tied up on their top 4 forwards for next season. As a little bit of perspective, they just lost to a team that spent $40,596,582 this season on 18 NHL forwards. That isn’t to say that the Toronto players aren’t worth their salaries, just that it’s a glaringly unbalanced line-up that could use some tweaking. Those salaries were likely given out under the expectation that the salary cap would be increased on a year to year basis.

As we all know, due to a worldwide pandemic, the cap will not be lifted next season. This stagnation of the cap essentially means that teams won’t be able to hide expensive contracts as a lower percentage of the cap. They’ll have to get creative. In the case of the Maple Leafs, they have a number of young players, such as Auston Matthews, in the primes of their careers. The moment for the Leafs to shine is now.

Further compounding the Leafs troubles is that the recent result means that the Leafs will be giving up their first-round selection to the Carolina Hurricanes, as a final piece of the payment for the Patrick Marleau trade. While the 13th overall selection is a nice little haul for the Canes, it leaves Toronto without a 1st or 3rd round pick in this draft and decreases the opportunity for them to make a trade to address their team-building issues.

An Underwhelming Defense Opens Doors for the Anaheim Ducks

Enter stage left: the Anaheim Ducks.

The Leafs’ current weakness presents a moment for Bob Murray to take a big-time risk and remodel his team. Currently, Anaheim has all the things that Toronto could seemingly use.

  • A young defensive corp? Check
  • Young and cheap role players? Check
  • First-round draft picks? Check

Firstly, the Leafs have a serious need to fortify their own zone. With their best players being high octane scorers, they’ve left little in the bank for a defensive stalwart. The Jake Muzzin acquisition was a good one. Morgan Reilly is a strong player, but not necessarily a strong defensive player. The rest of the defense is largely suspect. Cody Ceci is not a particularly solid player. Tyson Barrie has his moments and niche, but shouldn’t be confused with a shutdown defenceman. Justin Holl is good for what he does, but he does have a limited toolbox.

The Anaheim Ducks currently have the 2nd youngest defense in the NHL. Many of the names within it likely won’t be of particular interest to the Leafs as they once again load up for a potential Stanely Cup run. However, two names would stand out.

Firstly, Josh Manson. An unspectacular but solid defenceman, Manson can lay down some punishing hits and would be a welcome addition to the Leafs. However, Murray is looking at making a big move and Manson won’t be it – like one executive once said (paraphrased) “The Ducks like Manson more than you like your wife.”

Hampus Lindholm to the Maple Leafs

This leaves us with the 26-year old Hampus Lindholm.

Typically, Lindholm presents strongly across some of the more skill-based defensive aspects. He has traditionally been strong at breaking up opposition play as they move into the offensive zone. Prior to this last season, it wasn’t out of the ordinary to observe high puck recovery numbers on his side of the ice, and similarly high defensive zone exits on the opposite wing.

That is to say, Lindholm would routinely break up the opposition offensive foray, regather the puck, and begin the movement across the ice to counter attack either by a short pass or a traditional hinge play. Lindholm has also shown to present quality numbers as a puck carrier in transitional play through the neutral zone.

These strengths give Lindholm utility to play either as part of a shutdown pairing, in which he can foil the opposition with skill, and his partner can punish them with power and strength. Much in the manner of the traditional Lindholm-Josh Manson pairing that Anaheim Ducks fans would be most used to.

For the Leafs, this could mean pairing him with Jake Muzzin in order to stifle teams when the run of play turns against them. Lindholm’s ability to shift play and begin the breakout, however, also lends itself to playing with higher octane offensive players. The Leafs could imagine him alongside Morgan Reilly, with Lindholm breaking up the play before shifting it across to that offensive wizard to initiate the offensive foray.

Unfortunately, Lindholm’s defensive numbers took a pretty big hit last season, which may lower his value somewhat significantly. The Ducks made the bold move of not having an NHL caliber coach in charge of their team last season, and as a result, a number of players took significant steps backward.

However, prior to last season, Lindholm has been the crown jewel in the Ducks defense. While Murray would likely need to add value to his side of the trade deal to get the monstrous moves he should be going for over the line, Lindholm’s age, strong history of performance, and affordable cap hit should make him appealing to Toronto now should Murray put his salesman cap on.

Sweetening the Pot

Nonetheless, the Anaheim Ducks would have to sweeten the pot for Toronto to bite no matter how much Ducks fans value Lindholm. In this instance, the Ducks should consider moving one of their very recently signed RFA forwards. In particular, the highly hyped Troy Terry comes to mind. While a full write up of the value of Terry’s deal can be found here, a brief overview is that Terry is a top-20-in-the-NHL-player at carrying the puck in transition, is a very solid defensive player, and is on a cheap enough deal to slide onto a 3rd or 4th line with not a care in the world.

While Terry’s scoring is somewhat underwhelming given the hype he was placed under coming into the league, there is some hope for him given his results in the AHL this past season. It would also be worth noting that Terry was another who took a step backward with regards to performance while playing within the Ducks no-coach coaching system.

Toronto could hope that he would rebound under the tutelage of an NHL caliber coach and alongside some of the big-time offensive players they already have in the fold. Though in reality, it would be Terry’s ability to break up plays and transition the puck forward which would be most appealing to the Leafs. A young defensively orientated forward on a cheap contract would slot in nicely to take pressure away from their besieged defense, as well as netminder Frederik Andersen.

Further adding to the pot, the Anaheim Ducks can add the second of their multiple 1st round draft selections, or even their relatively early 2nd round selection. This would allow Toronto back into the early stage of the draft and to accumulate future cheap talent to put in and around their marque players over the next few years.

Thus, Murray offers a package of Hampus Lindholm, Troy Terry, and the Boston Bruins 1st round draft pick. There is a lot of value there, and the potential to add even more if the Ducks were so inclined. It wouldn’t take much to add their 2nd round selection or to save themselves some expansion draft grief and add a player such as Max Jones to the mix.

A big and fast bottom 6 player, with a somewhat violent history, could be interesting to Toronto moving forward given that players pedigree and how much many in the hockey twitter-sphere are suggesting they missed Nazem Kadri‘s grit.

Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks could move a defenceman such as Jakob Larsson, Josh Mahura, or Brendan Guhle if that was required. The potential to expand the trade is certainly there, given Lindholm and the draft pick would be the real outgoing value for the Ducks.

What do the Ducks Get Back in Return?

What then, do the Ducks get back in trade for this haul of players and picks?

William Nylander is the easy choice, given his solid contract and the rumors that the Ducks were infatuated with him at the draft. A draft in which they instead took, now Boston Bruins bruiser, Nick Ritchie at #10 overall. However, Nylander as skilled as he is, probably fits in with Toronto far better than hockey twitter would have you believe. His contract is good value for his performances, and he is quite the handsome fellow… if you’re into that sort of thing.

Bob Murray Should Set His Sights on Mitch Marner

Instead of Nylander then, Murray should aim his sights towards the extremely highly paid Mitch Marner. Marner’s cap hit is the type of cap hit you hand out to superstars, and while Marner is an excellent player in his own right, it could be suggested that he does not quite reach that rarified air deserving of his contract status.

Moving it, and accepting smaller salaries for solid defencemen and role-playing forwards would make the Leafs a far deeper team across the board. It would also free up some ice time for players such as Kasperi Kapanen.

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There’s no doubt that losing a point per game player such as Marner would hurt the Leaf’s offense, yet the potential to improve significantly on the defensive end could pay dividends in a tight playoff series. Make no mistake, the Leafs would certainly be good enough to make the playoffs.

The Anaheim Ducks, however, get a marque player and as well as keeping their prized #6 overall selection in this coming entry-level draft. At 23 years old, Marner would easily fit into a long term rebuild and would be allowed to be “the man” on a team that would be lacking in players who would command a fixture in team marketing endeavors.

A future line of Mitch Marner-Trevor Zegras-Marco Rossi, assuming Rossi is the Anaheim Ducks draft selection, is enough to have most fans salivating. A pure playmaker, an extremely good all-around offensive star, and the shooter is a line combination that would give other teams fits and would drive ticket sales for a franchise in need of excitement.

Bringing Excitement Back to the Pond

To give it up, the Anaheim Ducks lose an unspectacular but very very good young defenceman, an American “hero” who hasn’t quite turned out to expectations, and a bunch of role players or future role players. There’s no doubt it could hurt. There’s no doubt it would take some intestinal fortitude to make the call.

But you can’t tell me you wouldn’t pay to watch a player scoring in excess of a point per game razzle-dazzle alongside Zegras and whichever prime time goal scorer they can find over the next few years. I know you would. We went through a time when Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne were our only two players worthy of watching (no disrespect to the rest of the team). It’s time again for a big move to bring excitement back to the pond. The Leafs falling apart at the seams gives the Ducks that chance. Let’s hope Murray takes it.

dark. Next. Troy Terry’s New Contract Protects the Ducks

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