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Hurricanes trade deadline options: the search for a defenseman

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Josh Manson ranks at the top of the list as the Hurricanes look for someone to round out their defensive depth chart going into the postseason.

Carolina Hurricanes v Anaheim Ducks Photo by Robert Binder/NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL trade deadline is now less than one week away, and according to Don Waddell, the Carolina Hurricanes are on the hunt for a defenseman. Because of course they are.

This is a year unlike any other for a number of reasons, and because of that, there’s a real possibility that the team simply isn’t interested at all in a rental and will instead look for a player with term. Waddell has suggested numerous times that they want to make a hockey deal and avoid rentals if they are going to add to their roster.

They’ve been tied to one player on the market, and a lot of this piece will be focused on that specific player, but we’ll also take a look at a couple of other options that can make the blue line deeper and set the team up for a postseason run.

Let’s begin.


Josh Manson

If the Hurricanes are looking for a defensively sturdy right-handed defenseman who could be a good fit next to Jake Bean, I’m not sure they could do better than Manson by the trade deadline.

He also fits the criteria that Don Waddell has laid out. He isn’t a rental, as he has an additional year on his contract at a $4.1 million cap hit. Contract-wise, I think he makes a lot of sense. He has a little bit of term, but not enough to where you’re concerned about how he factors into extensions for Dougie Hamilton and Andrei Svechnikov.

His game is established at this point. He’s big, he’s physical, he plays shutdown defense. Over his last six seasons, including this season which saw him get off to a late start due to injury, he has been a negative isolated xGA player in the defensive zone while going against top-six skaters on a routine basis.

Josh Manson 5v5 isolated impact.
HockeyViz.com

One thing that’s pretty clear is that, offensively, he hasn’t been the guy that he was back in 2017-18 when he scored seven goals and had a career-high 37 points. The flip side of that is Anaheim has been downright bad over the last couple of seasons. Last season, though, the Ducks were generating more xGF and fewer xGA with Manson on the ice. He was a standout player on a bad team.

A move to Carolina would almost certainly ease his workload and put him in an even better position to succeed. If he’s playing with Bean, he won’t get the matchups that he got in Anaheim and there’s a good chance that in addition to him performing well, he could elevate the play of Bean and allow him to work offensively in a way that he hasn’t been able to over the last several weeks.

Pierre LeBrun reported this week that the Hurricanes are in the middle of these Manson talks, but the asking price from the Ducks has been a first-round pick and a prospect. If that remains the case, you’ve lost me. Others have reported that the deal should end up being closer to what the Los Angeles Kings got for Alec Martinez, which was a pair of second-rounders.

If the Hurricanes are serious about adding a defense-first, penalty-killing right-shot defender, a Martinez-like trade for Manson is well within the realm of justifiability. I just can’t get myself to the first-round pick area with him, especially is he’s going to be a 17 or 18-minute defenseman. The Canes already gave up a first-rounder for a guy who, quite frankly, wasn’t worth it in Brady Skjei last season.

No matter how you look at it, Manson is an upgrade over Fleury, and probably a very significant one. His cap hit isn’t outrageous, his term is very manageable, and he brings a lot to the table for a team looking to win in the postseason.

The only hangup is the cost of acquisition. And that, my friends, is the trade deadline for you.


Colin Miller

If the Hurricanes fall out of the Manson talks, Miller is a good secondary option.

He had a couple of great seasons with the Vegas Golden Knights as they hit the ground running as a franchise before getting traded to purgatory in Buffalo.

Despite being on a dreadful team over the last two seasons, he’s outperformed a vast majority of his teammates and has continued to be an average to slightly above average defender.

Colin Miller’s isolated 5v5 impact.
HockeyViz.com

Like Manson, Miller has another year on his contract at a reasonable $3.875 million cap hit. He is a cheaper option all around, from his contract to what it would cost to get him.


The Rentals

There’s a pretty lengthy list of rental options that have been publicly thrown around in the rumor mill over the last several weeks.

The biggest name is David Savard. Right now, he’s at the top of TSN’s trade bait board and it seems like a good bet that he will be moved by 3:00 pm EST on April 12.

He’s an all-defense player who generates very little offense. A one-trick pony, but the trick is pretty impressive. Factoring in his rental status and how much it might take to acquire him, I don’t see Carolina being too interested here, even if he is a righty.

Mattias Ekholm is in the same boat as Savard as a rental defenseman with a high price tag, but he couldn’t be much more different as a player. Over the last couple of seasons, Ekholm has gone from a defensive defender with average to below average offense to an all-out offensive machine.

Some teams will be willing to give up a lot for him, because he is very capable with the puck on his stick, but he doesn’t seem to fit the description of what the Hurricanes are looking for. They have Bean, they have Jake Gardiner (kind of). They don’t really need what Ekholm brings, unless they are parting ways with one of their other lefties.

Jamie Oleksiak is another player on TSN’s trade bait board that would make a lot of sense for the Hurricanes. He’s a lanky defender who has excelled defensively and was an important member of the Stars’ run to the Stanley Cup finals. He’s physical, he’s a good defender, and he has the experience that Carolina will find attractive. Like the other names on this list from teams within the Central Division, you have to wonder if teams still competing for that final playoff spot in the division be willing to deal with a division-leader.

The New Jersey Devils have a couple of decent rental options in Ryan Murray and Dmitry Kulikov. Both of them are lefties and both of them are defensively stout. Murray would probably be the preferred option. He’s been very effective in his own zone this season and has been for many years. He hasn’t lived up to the billing as a #2 pick in the draft, but he’d still be an upgrade over Fleury and could pair well with Bean, or Fleury, or Gardiner, or whoever the Canes plan on putting on that third pairing moving forward.