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A Quick and Dirty Survey of Western Conference Right-Shooting Defencemen

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Part II of our scan of potential trade acquisitions.

Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks Getty Images

Last week, I took a look at the Top 4, right-shooting defencemen who the Leafs might hope to acquire in a trade, surveying the Eastern Conference. Here’s the corresponding survey of the West.

This will give an extremely quick summary of the player, their contract, their strengths and weaknesses, my totally speculative guess at how available they ought to be, and my equally speculative guess at their price. While this will necessarily be a brief and wildly imprecise exercise, the idea is to get an idea of what’s out there.

Just once more for emphasis: this is going to involve a lot of me guessing, and it’s going to be even more speculative than the East, because I don’t follow the West much.

Some Guys I Left Out

As with the East, I did not include guys who I thought were too high-value to be acquired (e.g. Colton Parayko) or who showed no signs of being Top 4. I also tended to ignore guys who were recently acquired in a trade (e.g. Jason Demers) or recently signed big, long-term extensions (e.g. Josh Manson).

A little note about Demers: while I know Arizona sucks, they did just get him, he’s played well with Oliver Ekman-Larsson (whom they really want to keep, probably) and I don’t think the Coyotes want to go full tear-down again. So I don’t believe he’s on the market. Wouldn’t be sad to be wrong, though.

One guy who was suggested to me, who I ultimately didn’t include: Greg Pateryn. He’s fascinating as a journeyman defenceman who has landed on his feet playing second-pair in Dallas, alongside Dan Hamhuis. But he’s a UFA at the end of the season and he’s dirt cheap, and Dallas is trending towards the playoffs. I can’t see any reason for them to deal him.

Justin Braun for the Sharks is interesting, but I don’t see the Sharks dealing away Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s partner in a playoff year. He’s on an okay deal, too.

Finally, this is probably obvious, but I only included right-shooting D, which leaves out anyone who shoots left even if they sometimes play right side, like Nik Hjalmarsson.

Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks

Just kidding!

Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche

Pittsburgh Penguins v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Age: 26

5’10”, 190 lbs.

Signed for three seasons at $5.5M AAV

Strengths: Offensive defenceman; quality skater and puck-mover; has managed to survive the dark times in Colorado without jumping off a bridge

Weaknesses: Very aggressive offensively, possibly to the irritation of a coach like Babcock; Corsi numbers are about team average on a team that has generally been bad the last few years; plays second-pair competition; his hand is busted at the moment and he’s going to be out a few weeks

I would be remiss if I didn’t link to this very thorough look at Barrie from Katya. While it’s from May 2016, it’s nonetheless a great introduction to the player.

Availability: 4/10. This may seem low given that Barrie has been rumoured to be on the trade block, and linked to the Leafs, for two years now. But the rumours have quieted lately, and the Avs are currently fire-hot and making a serious run at a playoff spot. Who knows whether they’ll get in, but it probably makes them less eager to deal one of their two RHD.

Price: Nothing cheap, but despite what some people would tell you, probably not totally unaffordable (no, the Leafs are not trading Mitch Marner for Tyson Barrie.) The Avs could use some additional offensive support to back up their dynamite top line—Landeskog, MacKinnon, and Rantanen is absolutely murderous, but only one other winger in the lineup has ever cleared 40 points (Colin Wilson, three years ago.) Perhaps more than other teams, the Avs could benefit from some of the Leafs’ trove of offensive wing talent....assuming either team wants to make a deal.

Julius Honka, Dallas Stars

Age: 22

5’10”, 181 lbs.

Signed for two years at $863,333 (but with potential bonuses)

Strengths: Dazzling offensive defenceman, at least outside the NHL; sterling CF% whenever he does get into the lineup, albeit in easy third-pair minutes; I love me some dudes who can skate

Weaknesses: Hey, is anyone else concerned he can’t reliably crack the Stars’ lineup yet?; small, offensive-minded, and not exactly famous for defensive execution; Ken Hitchcock doesn’t seem to like him, so that may not bode well for how Babcock would like him

Availability: 3/10. I’m stretching a bit to include him, as Honka has not been a Top 4 NHL defenceman, but as a former first-round pick with obvious ability who seems to be on the outs a bit with his current team, I get a little intrigued. The Stars are probably in no hurry—it’s not like he’s going anywhere if they keep him—but they might look for help elsewhere if they want to make noise this year.

Price: I would guess high, but this is a really murky one. Honka was really well thought of. But what do the Stars think of him now? Are they just patient? Did they read Tyler Dellow talking about how his CF% may not quite be what it appears? Do they think they’re selling high before other teams realize Honka’s not actually up for top four work? Will I just continue talking in questions indefinitely?

Anyway, yeah, I really don’t know on this one.

Matthew Dumba, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Wild v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Age: 23

6’0”, 183 lbs.

Signed for one year at $2.55M (expires RFA)

Strengths: Like Barrie, a good skating defenceman who puts up points (tired of that yet?), but more physical than others of his type; good shot and puts in goals at even strength; wildly energetic and talented, still young; actually playing tough competition, unlike many of these guys; having a pretty good year on a not-good team

Weaknesses: Shot results are not great (but hey, it’s the Wild); expected goals have lagged behind his team at times

Availability: 3/10. I can’t imagine the Wild are in any hurry to move on from Dumba and teams rarely lose RFAs if they don’t want to. But he’s about to be due a raise, and while the Wild can afford to keep him, they may want to look at other big moves in the summer as they try to get a last Cup run out of the aging Parise-Koivu-Suter triumvirate. If that’s the case, Dumba might be on the market.

Price: High. Like, quite high. Points cost money, team control costs money, youth costs money, and talent costs money. Dumba may not be a top pair guy but all of those factors are going to drive up his cost, should the Wild want to deal him. A huge factor, of course, is what the Minnesota Wild think they need to do about their relentlessly mediocre team, which is middling-to-below-average at almost everything.

Ryan Ellis, Nashville Predators

Age: 27

5’10”, 180 lbs.

Signed for two years at $2.5M AAV

Strengths: Just a damn good all-around defenceman—offensive, defensive, mobile, shooting, you name it; not elite, necessarily, but bona fide two-way ability

Weaknesses: He’s not very big, but who cares; we’re not going to get him

Availability: 1/10. I was very close to not including him at all because I think it’s really, really unlikely the Preds deal a very good defenceman on a very good deal when they’re trying to contend the next two seasons. However....

Price: ...there’s a scenario I could just see as possible where the Preds want to upgrade their wing scoring this year and they’re willing to move Ellis for James van Riemsdyk plus considerable other assets. The Preds did well enough without Ellis in the earlier part of this season and they would still have three top-pair-calibre d-men if they traded Ellis [envious weeping]. Filip Forsberg and Victor Arvidsson are both currently injured, too, though they should be back come playoff time. Still, this is super unlikely, and I apologize for getting your hopes up.

Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets are trying to make a run this year, they’re not trading him now, but you might want to keep an eye on him in the summer in case his RFA negotiations are acrimonious and he still wants to get the hell out of Winnipeg, like he did two years ago.

Kris Russell, Edmonton Oilers

lol can you imagine

Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings

Age: 28

6’1”, 195 lbs.

Signed for two seasons at $7M AAV

Strengths: He’s a franchise defenceman and in the conversation for the best two-way defender in the NHL. There’s not really anything else to say.

Weaknesses: Fewer points than the very top offensive defencemen, I guess? Getting outscored by Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman isn’t like, the worst thing though.

Availability: 1/10. Basically the Kings have to crater for this year and they also have to be convinced that Doughty is absolutely, positively, 100% going to leave when his contract is up. I really doubt they’re going to be convinced of that unless Doughty leaves a flaming bag of dog poo at Rob Blake’s door. We’re only having this conversation because Doughty dropped some fairly considerable hints that he a) wants to be incredibly rich and b) would like to play in Toronto.

Price: All of the things. So, so many of the things. The package would start with one of Nylander and Marner and that wouldn’t be the end of it. The Leafs would pay it, though.

Chris Tanev, Vancouver Canucks

Age: 28

6’2”, 195 lbs.

Signed for three years at $4.45M AAV

I wrote up Chris Tanev last summer, and so I will refer you to that for discussion of his play.

Availability: It should be 10/10, but I have no idea whether the Canucks management has accepted that they aren’t going to be especially good for a couple of years. This trade made sense last summer, to be honest, and I don’t know why it didn’t happen, so the fact that it didn’t probably knocks this number down.

Price: A good pick and a good prospect, or more. The trick is that the Canucks probably want to start building their defence of the future, but I doubt they’re in a position to turn down, I dunno, Kasperi Kapanen.

Erik Gudbranson, Vancouver Canucks

Age: 26

6’5”, 220 lbs.

Signed for one year at $3.5M AAV

Strengths: [wordless screaming]

Weaknesses: Playing hockey

Availability: 10/10. The Canucks apparently want to give up on Gudbranson, whose assets are a) pedigree and b) height, which basically makes him a kind of Super Griffin Reinhart. He is bad! That is why they want to trade him.

Price: If the Leafs trade for and sign Erik Gudbranson, I will become a fan of the Seattle team. I am serious.

Summary

So where does this leave us?

The Leafs have one asset in droves, and that asset is high-end scoring winger prospects. Kasperi Kapanen heads the list, but Andreas Johnson and Jeremy Bracco both ought to have a bit of value as well. Neither is going to bring in anything all that meaningful alone, but each could be included in a worthwhile package.

The two players that would seem to me to be the most helpful and plausible RHD acquisitions are Philadelphia’s Radko Gudas and Vancouver’s Chris Tanev. There are certainly others, or the Leafs could acquire a LHD and try to play him right-side, but I don’t think any candidates are really both as likely and as believably available as those two. That said, who knows what GMs are thinking, and especially when one of the GMs is Lou Lamoriello? We’ll have to wait and see.