The 26-year-old Anaheim Ducks defenceman is at the top of many “trade bait” lists and the impending expansion draft on June 21st is doing little to quell the talk.
That’s because the Ducks have a decision to make with respect to Vatanen, as they’ll have to slate some players for draft protection and let the rest hang in the wind at Vegas’ whim. Lucky for them, several teams are interested in his services – even after an off year.
Many teams are interested in making an upgrade or two on defence and Vatanen’s status as a top-four guy makes him a compelling draw, especially for those clubs in the market for an offensive twist. Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Toronto are said to be the most interested teams as of now, with Mike Babcock even making an appearance at the Western Conference Final to (maybe) check the blueliner out.
Vatanen can move the puck and he’ll put up over 21 minutes of ice time a game, so he’s a good pick and a smart player. He’s worth a reported $4.875 million for the next three seasons, says CapFriendly.com, and he’s got a no-trade on the last two years of the deal.
Hence, timing is everything.
Word around the campfire is that Anaheim is fielding calls and hoping to gain a forward prospect in exchange for Vatanen, what with a rather deep defensive prospect pool.
There’s also a wrinkle: Vatanen is hurt. He’s due for shoulder surgery and will be out longer than Hampus Lindholm, who’ll be out four to five months according to the Ducks. That means Vatanen will miss the start of the 2017-2018 season, so that could be a factor going forward.
The Ducks would still like to get something for Vatanen, of course, but injury trouble and timing means that they may not hold all the cards and therefore can’t call all the shots. That could see trade partners slip in lower draft picks along with a weaker prospect.
The good news for Anaheim is that the phones are ringing.
In 71 regular season games in 2016-2017, Vatanen had 24 points – including three goals and 21 helpers. He had six points in a dozen playoff games.