One Year Later: The Josh Manson trade

Photo: USA Today

By Thomas Harrington

One year ago today, the Anaheim Ducks traded defenseman Josh Manson to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2023 2nd round pick and prospect Drew Helleson, with the Ducks retaining half of Manson’s salary. This was Pat Verbeek’s firs trade as the GM of the Ducks.

The Ducks had drafted Manson in the sixth round of the 2011 NHL Draft, easily one of Anaheim’s best drafts of all time, and he’d spent his entire career in Anaheim until the trade. While never a dynamic offensive defenseman, Manson was more known for his rugged physical play, but he did put up a career high 37 points in 80 games in the 2017-2018 season. For a number of years he and Hampus Lindholm formed one of the best defensive tandems in the league. However, Manson, like the rest of the team, struggled in recent seasons, and his offensive numbers slipped while his defensive game suffered. Coming up to the end of his contract, it was clear it was time for the Ducks and Manson to part ways. Overall, he played in 453 games for the Ducks and scored 26 goals and 113 points.

Colorado had selected Helleson in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft, 47th overall. After being drafted, Helleson attended Boston College for three years where he improved every year, recording six points in 28 games as a freshman and finishing with 25 points in 32 games as a junior. He also played for Team USA at the World Juniors in the 2020-2021 season and at the Winter Olympics in the 2021-2022 season.

Despite a surprisingly strong start to the season, the Ducks were clearly going to miss the playoffs for a franchise record fourth straight season. Anaheim was looking to move several of their unrestricted free agents before the deadline and get as much for them as they could in return. Colorado was one of the best teams in the league and were looking to capture the third Stanley Cup in franchise history; they made a total of four trades in the lead up to the deadline a year ago.

After the trade, Manson played in 22 regular season games for the Avalanche and scored two goals and seven points. He averaged over 17 minutes of ice time per game, good for fifth among Avalanche defensemen for the season. In the playoffs, he played in all 20 games and scored three goals and eight points; the three playoff goals were the first of his career. The highlight for Manson was scoring the overtime gamewinner against St. Louis in the first game of the second round. He was never counted on to be their top defenseman, but played well and once again averaged over 17 minutes of ice time per game, good for fifth among defensemen on the team. Manson was scheduled to hit free agency in the summer, but decided to sign a four year deal worth $4.5 million a season and stay with his new team. This year hasn’t gone as well for Manson, as he’s spent time on injured reserve and only appeared in 27 games, scoring two goals and 10 points.

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After being acquired by Anaheim, Helleson was signed to a standard three-year entry-level contract. After signing with the Ducks, he joined the San Diego Gulls for the rest of the season, and had two assists in 17 regular season games. He was scoreless in two playoff games. This season hasn’t gone well for him or his teammates, but he has primarily played on San Diego’s top four and has five goals and 15 points in 53 games. He was called up to Anaheim in mid-November, but didn’t play in any games and has yet to make his NHL debut.

The 2023 NHL Entry Draft is supposed to be a deep one, so getting another pick in the draft was good to see, but it will take some time to see how good the prospect turns out to be. This season, Colorado has been beset by injuries and was a middle-of-the-pack team for much of the season. They’ve been better lately, but if they finish as one of the final teams to make it into the playoffs and then lose in the first couple rounds of the playoffs, the Ducks could have a pick in the low 50s at the draft, maybe even under 50 if the Avs end up slipping out of a playoff spot. However, if Colorado has another deep playoff run in them, the pick could end up being in the 60s.

One year later, and I think both teams got what they wanted out of it, but Colorado is the big winner as Manson was part of Colorado’s Stanley Cup winning team. That doesn’t make the Ducks losers by any means; they got a good, young defensive prospect and a pick in what is supposed to be a strong draft. They got what they wanted, and if Helleson and/or the pick works out, this is a deal that could one day be looked back on as a win for both sides.

The only real issue I have with it was Anaheim retaining half of Manson’s salary. By getting Manson at half price, it helped the Avalanche make other moves, which helped them win the Cup. I was hoping by retaining half of Manson’s salary the Ducks could get either another pick or a first round pick instead of a second round pick. But given how much Manson had struggled in his final seasons in Anaheim, it’s not a huge surprise to see him not bring in a bigger return, even with the salary retention.

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March 14th, 2023


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