Analyzing what Avalanche, Ducks get in the Josh Manson trade

Take one of the top defensemen available off the board.

Monday brought us the first impactful move of this trade deadline season, with the Colorado Avalanche acquiring defenseman Josh Manson from Anaheim for prospect blueliner Drew Helleson and a second-round pick in the 2023 draft. Anaheim also retained half of Manson’s $4.1 million AAV.

The cap picture for the Avs now remains tight and, at the moment, there is little room for them to maneuver. According to Cap Friendly, the Avalanche project to have $1.5 million in space at the deadline. Reports indicate Colorado is still on the hunt and looking to make a big splash (Claude Giroux perhaps), but for that to happen, one more development may need to occur.

With Gabriel Landeskog still expected to return from his knee surgery this season, the Avs could place him on LTIR this week. And if Landeskog will miss the final few weeks of the regular season, that move would free up GM Joe Sakic to do just about anything he wants before trade season closes on March 21.

But that is still ahead. For now, we take a look at the two sides of Monday’s deal between the Avs and Ducks: what exactly is each team getting?

JOSH MANSON

The key to the deal and one of the top “tough” defenders on the board. While this trade deadline could offer a selection of name blueliners — from Hampus Lindholm to Mark Giordano and Jakob Chychrun (now injured) — Manson’s style of play is coveted by GMs come playoff time. And it was one especially lacking on Colorado’s skilled blue line.

He can log plenty of minutes (averaging 17:21 of even strength time this season), is a penalty-kill option (averages 2:22 of PK time this season) and can be a physical complement to a more run-and-gun partner.


Do not confuse this to mean Manson is a one-dimensional bruiser. Often the label “physical, defensive defenseman” comes with the connotation that the player is slow, or doesn’t contribute on offense. And while it’s true Manson is not likely to be a power-play contributor, he tends to help his team get the puck back and moving in the right direction.

When Manson was on the ice at 5-on-5 for Anaheim this season, the team took 52 per cent of the shots and outscored the competition by one. Considering the context that he attained this despite mostly starting on the defensive end of the ice, and for a Ducks team that showed promise this season before backsliding out of the playoffs again, he’s been having a pretty good bounce-back season.

Manson’s on-ice numbers rebounded this season from a terrible 2020-21, when the whole Ducks team was struggling. It’s been a few years since his underlying stats really shone and so perhaps he’s past the peak of his powers at 30 years old. But how much of that had to do with the situation he found himself in on a deteriorating Ducks team, and what exactly will a move to a star-studded Avalanche team do for his game? Colorado fans should be optimistic.

With Sam Girard out of the lineup the next four weeks and Bowen Byram still recovering from a concussion, Manson could step right on to the second defense pair for now, and could either stick there going forward, or be one heck of an addition to a third pair.

Josh Manson pinching down the boards and scoring a goal.

What is key to know about Manson, though, is that while he is a physical defensive defenseman first, he should be regarded as a two-way threat. Working with the forward weapons the Avs have, it will be fascinating to see how he gels.

Scout’s Analysis from Jason Bukala:

Manson has historically logged between 18-22 minutes per night. He plays to an identity. A two-way D who’s quick to space, plays physical and can be used in key defensive-zone scenarios against top-flight opponents. He will be deployed at even strength and the PK. He won’t be used on the PP, but he moves pucks fine and will, occasionally, join the rush as an extra layer.

This is a significant addition to a team that appears poised for a long run this spring. The Avalanche were already a contending team. This might be the deal they look back on as the one that put them over the top.


DREW HELLESON

It was time for the Ducks to move on from Manson, but the prospect coming back to them is an intriguing blueliner who could be given his NHL shot before too long.

Helleson was a second-round pick of Colorado’s in 2019, a class that has already brought Byram and Alex Newhook to the Avalanche lineup. The 20-year-old Helleson had a breakout offensive season at Boston College this year, totaling 25 points in 32 games. But defense is perhaps his bigger strength: Helleson was named Hockey East’s best defensive defenseman last season.

He was a top-four blueliner for Team USA at the 2021 WJC in a gold medal effort and he even joined Team USA at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, recording one assist in three games.


Prospect Analysis from Sam Cosentino:

Helleson is a big, right-shot defenseman, who in his days at the USNTDP earned the reputation as being a solid, stay-at-home defenseman. He’s an excellent skater who moves pucks accurately and efficiently. Since going to Boston College, his offensive game has evolved, but not at the cost of sacrificing the effectiveness of his defensive game.

He uses his size and reach effectively to defend, but he’s not an overly physical player. There is some offensive upside for a player who projects as a second-pairing defenseman in the NHL.

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