Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall analyzed the NHL trade market as waiting for someone to make the first move and set the market values. Hextall made his comment on Friday. On Monday, the Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks obliged.
Colorado acquired, or Anaheim traded (pending your point of view), tough defenseman Josh Manson. Anaheim ate 50% of Manson’s $4.1 million salary in exchange for prospect defenseman Drew Helleson and a 2023 second-rounder.
“It’s hard to gauge right now because there hasn’t been a lot done. Typically the first deal that happens sets the markets to a degree. Now, but it’s hard to say, I think there was quite a few sellers,” Hextall said on Friday. “The East, I mean, it’s not typically like this where there’s such a gap between the playoff teams and non playoff teams at this point. It’s typically closer. So I think there’s maybe a few more sellers, but I think there’s also a lot of people who are up against a cap or makes it difficult to finding a fit.”
Also, on Tuesday, a source with direct knowledge, told the Hockey Now network that the Penguins were pushing hard for Montreal Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot. That admission came a couple of days after a rival Eastern Conference source told PHN that Pittsburgh Penguins management was very high on Chiarot.
Get more from Montreal Hockey Now on the Ben Chiarot situation. Stick tap to Jimmy Murphy of the Hockey Now Network.
The reaction to the Manson deal has been mixed, which probably means it was a fair trade. However, past NHL trade markets would have likely yielded a higher return. A prospect who was a 2019 second-rounder and is probably three years away isn’t a super fantastic, oh wow, sort of haul. Further, Anaheim had to eat half of Manson’s salary to get the deal done.
In fairness, our colleague Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now called Helleson, “a stud. He’ll play against (Colorado) for 10-15 years.”
This season, Manson had nine points (4-5-9) in 45 games. No, his game isn’t about offense. It’s about defense. He has 116 hits and 45 blocks, and is an even player on a team with a negative goal differential.
Manson is a second-pair defenseman who plays about 20 minutes per game.
If Hextall was correct and the first trade sets the market, how does that affect the Pittsburgh Penguins and their NHL trade deadline plans?
First, we should note Elliotte Friedman’s reporting. According to the Sportsnet ace, Hextall has mostly pulled back from talks with the Vancouver Canucks, who wanted one of the Penguins’ young defensemen, John Marino or Marcus Pettersson. Friedman also said the pullback resulted from salary cap unknowns for next season (i.e. Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang).
The Manson trade negatively affects the Penguins deadline because the Penguins only have defensemen to offer. Sure, they have their first-round pick, and more than a few of my colleagues have offered that as tribute to the trade gods, but the reality is Hextall will not give up such a precious asset for anything less than a precious return.
Manson and John Marino are not dissimilar in usage. While Marino’s game is more puck movement and steady presence, Manson’s is sandpaper and steady. Both are 6-foot-3, second-pair, right-side defensemen.
A good prospect and a second-rounder IF the trading team eats some salary. Yikes.
Pettersson is a LHD, which by market forces instantly makes him a little less valuable than a right-sider. His salary just over $4 million made him less attractive still, and his recent demotion out of the Penguins’ top-six will deter some trade calls but perhaps invite others looking for a bargain.
A solid season has made Pettersson a viable trade chip. Jim Rutherford pulling the strings for another organization further enhances the possibility, but Hextall seems to have cooled.
Chiarot recently played the right side in front of a packed house of Canadiens fans and scouts. The Canadiens have been rejuvenated team under new coach Martin St. Louis and Chiarot a big contributor.
On the surface, the ability to deal away a defenseman such as Pettersson, or Marino, seems inexorably linked to acquiring a stay-home grinder like Chiarot.
Now the market is set. Six days to go.