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Shopping for defencemen just got more complicated

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Anaheim has some injury woes potentially taking defenders off the market, but they aren’t the only store that sells D.

Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Anaheim Defender Store: home of warehouse pricing

The news that two of the Anaheim Ducks defenders need shoulder surgery landed like a body check to some trade hopes and dreams on Thursday.

Could is an interesting word. You could be looking at one of those players ready on opening day, the other in a few weeks, or you might be looking at a 2018 start time for one or both of them. No one can tell from one tweet.

And for the record, injured players can be traded. But the picture has changed for trades from what everyone thinks of as the great defencemen warehouse of the NHL. Anaheim has new things to consider before making any deal.

The Ducks are in a bind regarding the expansion draft, this is true. They simply have more players they will want to protect than they have slots for. They can ease this by buying out Kevin Bieksa, who has to be protected because of his no-move clause. There’s just one tiny problem:

He’d need to pass a physical by June 14 in order to be bought out, or else agree to it. It could be an option for them still, he did play on that injury, and the word is he does not need surgery, so maybe he’s fine now.

If they don’t buyout Bieksa — can’t or don’t want to — they can make a trade with Vegas to avoid losing players they want to keep. They also, whether or not they make that sort of a deal, actually need one defender to expose who meet the exposure requirements.

Right now they have Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Josh Manson and Cam Fowler who meet those requirements. They missed making Korbinian Holzer eligible by three games played and Clayton Stoner by five. That seems to be extraordinarily bad planning. But perhaps they have a plan B there. If they don’t have a deal with Vegas to ensure that exposing one of those good defenders isn’t a risk, they are in the somewhat hilarious position of being in the market to acquire one defencemen in order to expose someone else.

The Ducks will also have one extra forward outside their protection bubble if they want to use an 8 skater system to protect all those defenders. One way or another, they have to make a trade with someone or else just decide giving Jakob Silfverberg to Vegas is the price of doing business.

This news about injuries seems to have complicated their decision making. Do the Ducks want to risk trading any of their NHL-capable defenders with the fate of two of them unknown? Has the value of Vatanen dropped to the point he’s not worth moving now in his injured state? And if you’re looking to acquire, do you want a guy who seems completely unlikely to be available on opening day?

I’m not entertaining the idea that Lindholm is on the market. You’d have to give up a Nylander to get him, and even then, maybe throw in a few extras. So unless Steve Yzerman has some really clever deal cooking to turn Jonathan Drouin into a Swedish defender — like he needs more — I don’t see Lindholm doing anything but rehabbing this summer.

Anaheim is not the only store for defencemen. If their stock is damaged and their real desire is to trade Silfverberg instead — I would if I were them given their current situation — let’s go somewhere else to shop.

Carolina Defender Store: grand opening

“We’ve got the open for business sign out there,” Francis said Wednesday.

That’s Ron Francis, as in the General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes.

They have a completely different expansion draft situation. They have so many young, exempt players, that they have room to protect everyone, expose qualified forwards they’re comfortable losing, and have one forward slot free. They could have a free defender slot too. They can acquire an extra non-exempt player they will have to protect before the draft. Very few teams other than the Colorado Avalanche are in that position.

Interestingly, for all the Hurricanes have a great, young defence corps and lots of prospects, they have only one defender they can make meet the exposure requirements with an extension. So they’re in the market for exposable D too. (The original version of this story contained an error where I’d somehow got the idea that you had to expose two defenders. I think I’ve mostly corrected that.) They could also be in the market for a veteran on defence anyway, now that they’ve traded Ron Hainsey.

Francis has also said they’ll take picks in trade.

“Really what it comes down to is what teams want: Do they want a player back for the asset they don’t have to protect or are they willing to take some picks and prospects?”

Francis said he has had preliminary discussions with McPhee but expects the pace of talks to pick up next week when the NHL gathers in Buffalo, N.Y., for the pre-draft scouting combine.

So they can simply get a couple of defenders to expose, sit with their feet up and wait for all the protected lists to be public, and, for example, make a deal with Vegas to get them to take Silfverberg and then trade him to Carolina for a pick.

The could also make a trade now for a good forward, an veteran defender, and give back one of their exempt defence prospects to get themselves closer to the playoffs now, which is their goal.

Francis remains optimistic the unique circumstances surrounding the expansion process will allow the Hurricanes to obtain a player who wouldn’t otherwise be available. He may not be able to add the top-line center the Hurricanes need, but he might be able to find a goal-scoring winger that way. Either way, the plan is to add at least one player during expansion while ensuring the Hurricanes lose the right one as well.

So who has that? Drouin, obviously is the goal scoring winger par excellence who is said to be on offer right now. Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog are supposedly on the block, and the latter just got finished playing very well with two Carolina Hurricanes forwards while winning a gold medal.

But I also know this team that has a stack of exposable defenders and a veteran scoring winger, or even a decent centre, should Carolina drop the requirement their acquisition be a top-liner. This team has everything Carolina needs to make the upgrades they want to become a contender soon.

Lou’s Skater Emporium: We have what you need

Alexey Marchenko, Connor Carrick and Martin Marincin all meet exposure requirements, and the Leafs don’t have protection slots for all of them. Matt Hunwick just needs an extension and he does too. So does Roman Polak, if you want to take a chance he heals up well.

On the front end, James van Riemsdyk is definitely a scoring winger, and the other thing the Hurricanes have is cap space enough for a contract like his. They haven’t got money, but they seem to be in go for it mode, so they have to be considering larger contracts than they usually take on.

The problem is, it isn’t Justin Faulk, top-pairing righty, they’re going to move. It’s going to be one of their surplus of lefty prospects at, or nearly at, the NHL level, who all need new contracts next summer. None of these players, as good as some are, are going to precisely fill the hole the Leafs have on the right side. Or immediately make up for the very good player the Leafs have just given up. Not imeediately.

Elliotte Friedman already speculated the ‘Canes might move Noah Hanifin.

One name to watch this off-season: Carolina’s Noah Hanifin. He played at least 20 minutes in 10 of the Hurricanes’ last 11 games (and came in at 19:58 in the other). I think Carolina would consider moving him if — and only if — an impact offensive forward was coming to Raleigh. So, don’t come at them with weak sauce. They are one of the few teams that could even consider this, because they have blue-line depth. But, Hanifin has a long, prosperous career ahead of him, and they will not trade him just for the sake of it.

For the chance to answer the eternal Marner/Hanifin argument in the best possible way, surely one of the Leafs defenders can move over to the right side? No?

Maybe Carolina isn’t the right store for the Leafs to shop in after all. There’s no harm in looking in the Ducks warehouse again.

Back to Anaheim

The righties Anaheim has are Vatanen and Manson. They’re about the same age, and Manson is on the last year of a very cheap deal, while Vatanen is under contract at just under five million for three years. Vatanen puts up points, shoots a lot and takes a few penalties. Manson shoots a lot less, gets fewer points and takes a lot more penalties. Manson is considered to be a genuine shutdown defender with good shot differential stats to back that up, even on a team that is very mediocre in the Corsi lists these days.

Do you want the fast car that looks like a discount sports car, or do you want the hatchback that handles well and can fit your groceries in the back? And what are you willing to pay?

Vegas is a real place

The Ducks might agree with me, and just do a deal with Vegas directly for Silfverberg. But Vegas has choices here; they aren’t the passive actor that trade speculation usually paints them as.

Vegas can do a deal before the draft with Anaheim, or they can wait, see what Anaheim manages to do, and if the Ducks leave a player exposed of value, then Vegas has the opportunity to pit Anaheim in a bidding war with whoever else wants that player. Vegas might gamble that the Ducks can’t sort out their surplus and will expose someone salable. And a bidding war means higher prices.

No matter what Vegas chooses to do, Anaheim has to offer something real to them to keep all their players, if that’s the outcome they want.

Back to Toronto

If the Leafs trade for Vatanen or Manson, they have to then use a protection slot for him, which they can do. It means exposing Carrick and Marincin both, and Carrick isn’t a player they’d want to lose for nothing. They might need their own deal with Vegas to make sure the right player moves off the roster, and that costs assets to make happen over and above what they just spent to make the trade.

The Leafs can also simply wait and see what Vegas can acquire for them from the lists of exposed players. The total cost may be cheaper.

The perk of the Carolina trade plan is that any player the Leafs get back is going to be exempt. That makes life easier.

Just get a defenceman! So easy to say. Not so easy to do. Particularly when you remember the Leafs aren’t the only shopper looking over the merchandise. If trade chips like Duchene and Drouin are really in play, Toronto might struggle to meet the price for any really high-end talent.

Maybe Anaheim and Carolina don’t have what the Leafs want at the right price. I hear there’s a new place in Minnesota that has a couple of models to choose from...