Top-four-calibre defencemen are always in high demand this time of year. A top-four defenceman on an affordable, expiring contract whose current team is outside the playoff picture and whose new GM is thinking long-term? Even better!
Pat Verbeek, entering his first deadline with Anaheim after being hired as GM in early February, said over the weekend at an event for season-ticket holders that the front office would do its best to ink Lindholm to a contract extension, while acknowledging he’d trade the 28-year-old if an agreement could not be reached.
Verbeek could end up being one of the busier general managers leading up to March 21.
Fellow defenceman Josh Manson plus forwards Rickard Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf, Nicolas Deslauriers and Sam Carrick are also Ducks pending UFAs to keep an eye on.
“I’m trying to sign these players, but if it doesn’t work out, I might have to make some tough decisions and trade them,” Verbeek said via The Orange County Register. “I’d be worried if they walked out the door without getting anything in return. I wouldn’t be doing my job well if I let that happen. We’re going to do our best to get it done and, if not, we’ll have to go in another direction.”
Jeff Marek reported over the weekend winger Maxime Comtois is another Ducks player who could be available ahead of the deadline. Comtois, 23, led the Ducks in scoring in 2021-22 and is set to become an RFA at the end of next season.
Elliotte Friedman reported Tuesday that Verbeek “has notified teams he is willing to gauge the market on his free agents” to which he added “doesn’t necessarily mean one (or all) will be traded, but he is doing his due diligence.”
Lindholm, who’d presumably garner the biggest return of all Ducks mentioned above, is in the final year of the six-year deal worth $31.5 million he inked in 2016.
The 2012 sixth-overall pick is likely on track to earn a raise on his next contract based on his consistent performance over the years.
“The word on the Ducks is that they’ve been very wary of term,” Friedman recently said on a recent 32 Thoughts podcast. “Lindholm is a top defenceman, you’ve seen what defencemen have been getting, a lot of term, the Ducks have been careful with it and we’ll see where it goes.”
The Ducks have only two players – goalie John Gibson and defenceman Cam Fowler – signed beyond the 2023-24 season.
Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff wrote: “Right now, it’s about a 50-50 shot as to whether Lindholm is re-signed or traded.”
Anaheim sits just one point back of the final West’s wild-card spot but all teams around the Ducks in the standings hold at least two games in hand on them.
Seravalli added that since the Ducks are facing a steep uphill climb to qualify for the playoffs, they “aren’t in a position to chase a playoff spot and risk (the pending UFAs) walking in free agency for nothing,” before adding, “Lindholm rocketed to the top as the premier rental defenceman.”
Lindholm’s affordable AAV is another reason he’s coveted. It’s a tad north of $5.2 million, but Anaheim is well-position to use an abundance of cap space to help facilitate a trade if necessary, which would increase the value on a return – Sure, we’ll retain some salary, so long as you upgrade that draft pick or give us a prospect with a higher ceiling – et cetera.
Any playoff-bound team looking to add a reliable, well-rounded d-man would be wise to give Verbeek a call. Lindholm has five goals, 16 assists, 42 penalty minutes and averages 22:38 of ice-time per night through 57 games in his ninth season with the Ducks.
Here are four teams whose GMs could inquire about Lindholm’s availability ahead of the 2022 trade deadline:
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
The Maple Leafs at the top of a possible trade destinations list? Shocking, isn’t it? Not really, though, when you consider Lindholm, on paper, could be the ideal rental for a team like Toronto this season.
Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas recently made it clear the team’s focus leading up to the deadline is defence, and with Jake Muzzin still recovering from his latest concussion, the team needs to fortify its back end.
“A lot of it is gonna depend on Muzzin’s health and where we're at,” Dubas told reporters on Friday. “We still have quite a bit of flexibility to get creative and try to make something happen, but unless we get the news we don't want on Muzz, I think we'll just have the one move left in us here.
“It's not one of these things where we're going to try to wait and have him come back in the playoffs. A style of player like him, if he's healthy and he's good to go, we need to get him back in and play and get him in form before the playoffs.”
If Muzzin is kept on LTIR until the playoffs, then the Leafs wouldn’t have much issue fitting Lindholm under the cap.
Targeting a player like Lindholm could leave the Leafs in a precarious position if they also wanted to address help between the pipes or add another forward. Defence is the priority, though, and Toronto had a scout attend Tuesday’s Ducks game against Chicago.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
We recently counted the Blues among the teams showing interest in Flyers star forward Claude Giroux, but adding a defenceman is a bigger priority for GM Doug Armstrong.
Blues beat reporter Jeremy Rutherford listed Lindholm alongside fellow left-shot blueliners Jakob Chychrun, Ben Chiarot, Mark Giordano and Zdeno Chara as trade targets for St. Louis one month ago.
Niko Mikkola has been skating beside Colton Parayko in the Blues’ top four and suffice it to say Lindholm would serve as an instant upgrade. Lindholm’s 75 blocked shots this season would rank second on St. Louis, behind Parayko’s 128.
“Multiple teams have eyed Lindholm as their No. 1 target on defence,” according to Seravalli, and “one of those teams is believed to be the Florida Panthers.”
The Panthers don’t have their 2022 first- or second-round picks after using them to acquire Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett last year – so far, those trades have been well worth it – yet that shouldn’t prevent them from being aggressive ahead of the deadline.
Lindholm’s 46.5 Corsi For percentage this season is the second worst of his career. One would think joining a top-tier possession team such as Florida (Panthers rank first in the NHL with a 56.1 team Corsi For percentage) would benefit the player.
NEW YORK RANGERS
The Rangers had two scouts at Tuesday’s Ducks game. Yes, there’s also speculation the Rangers could be interested in Rakell, but Lindholm is theoretically also a great fit for coach Gerard Gallant’s club.
Do you bump a rising blue-liner such as K’Andre Miller or Ryan Lindgren down to the third pair to allow Lindholm a spot in your top four? Or would one of those impressive youngsters be the type of asset Anaheim would seek as part of a return package?
The Rangers have their first-round picks in each of the next three seasons and hold an extra second and fourth in 2022.
Verbeek recently gave some insight into the type of pieces he’s looking to add to Ducks organization: