The 5 Best Trades and Landing Spots for Ducks Defenseman John Klingberg

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured Columnist IVDecember 16, 2022

The 5 Best Trades and Landing Spots for Ducks Defenseman John Klingberg

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    Anaheim Ducks defenseman John Klingberg.
    Anaheim Ducks defenseman John Klingberg.Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Having failed to land a lucrative long-term contract during the opening two weeks of the 2022 NHL free-agent market, John Klingberg signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Anaheim Ducks in July.

    Announcing the signing, Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek described Klingberg as "a gifted player who can quarterback a power play and give us need scoring from the blue line." Verbeek also felt the defenseman, who turned 30 on Aug. 14, would bring "veteran leadership and character" to the rebuilding Ducks.

    For Klingberg, it was an opportunity to bet on himself in another contract year. A skilled puck-moving blueliner, he tallied 47 points with the Dallas Stars in 2021-22, marking the sixth time in eight seasons that he'd reached or exceeded 40 points. A strong showing with the Ducks would enhance his value in the 2023 free-agent market.

    Verbeek, meanwhile, could use the opportunity to re-sign Klingberg. He could also shop the Swedish rearguard at the March 3 trade deadline for young assets to aid the Ducks' rebuilding process. Klingberg's full no-trade clause becomes a 10-team no-trade list Jan. 1.

    This season hasn't been a good one for the Ducks or Klingberg. They're mired at the bottom of the standings, while Klingberg has been held to eight points in 23 games. He also missed seven games with a lower-body injury.

    It appears Klingberg will become a trade chip for the Ducks. They could seek a first-round pick, but a second-round pick or a prospect seems the best they can hope for unless his performance improves before deadline day.

    Despite Klingberg's struggles, his skills could prove tempting for teams that seek offense from the blue line. These five clubs could attempt to acquire him before March 3.

    Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Is there a club that should or shouldn't be on this list? Let us know in the comments section.

Anaheim Ducks

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    Anaheim Ducks
    Anaheim DucksSean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    In October, Verbeek told The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun he signed Klingberg in part to show younger players like Jamie Drysdale the offensive side of the game. The Ducks GM also didn't rule out the possibility of re-signing the veteran defenseman rather than moving him at the trade deadline.

    Things aren't going smoothly for either side. In a Dec. 9 mailbag, LeBrun's colleague Eric Stephens took note of Klingberg's poor play, especially on the power play. Stephens said the Ducks privately wonder if he's feeling the pressure to prove himself in his contract year.

    The Ducks could shop Klingberg for the best possible return by deadline day if his performance hasn't improved. However, he could regain his form and start putting up decent offensive numbers. That might encourage Verbeek to discuss a new contract with him.

    Klingberg won't get a lucrative long-term offer from the Ducks, but he also won't find it on the free-agent market. He might opt for short-term stability at a lower price and hope for a bounce-back performance as the Ducks roster improves.

Buffalo Sabres

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    Buffalo Sabres
    Buffalo SabresJoe Hrycych/NHLI via Getty Images

    Thanks in part to young defensemen Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power, the Buffalo Sabres remain in the hunt for a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. With Henri Jokiharju and Ilya Lyubushkin dealing with injuries, however, they might need some experienced blue-line depth.

    The Sabres are the highest-scoring team in the league with a goals-per-game average of 3.93. If they remain in contention as the trade deadline draws near, perhaps general manager Kevyn Adams will consider adding a rental blueliner.

    Klingberg's mobility and offensive skills could be a good fit with the Sabres' potent scoring punch. It would also provide him with the opportunity to resurrect his game and help them end their 11-year postseason drought.

    The Sabres possess $26 million in cap space, so they have more than enough to absorb Klingberg's contract. They could probably land him by offering one of their three second-round picks in the 2023 NHL draft.

Florida Panthers

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    Florida Panthers
    Florida PanthersJeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

    The Florida Panthers enjoyed their best-ever regular season in 2021-22, taking home the Presidents' Trophy for the first time with 122 points. This season, however, they're struggling to remain in wild-card contention in the Eastern Conference.

    A lack of blue-line depth has contributed to the Panthers' struggles. Trading MacKenzie Weegar last summer to the Calgary Flames took away one of their top-four defensemen. They've been unable to fill that void.

    Klingberg doesn't play on the left side as Weegar did, nor does he play as responsible a defensive game. Nevertheless, he could bring an additional measure of veteran depth to their blue line. They could slot him behind Aaron Ekblad on the right side of their second defense pairing and shift Brandon Montour to the left side.

    The Panthers are squeezed for cap space and lack a first- or third-rounder in the 2023 draft. They don't have first-round picks in 2024 and 2025 or a second-rounder in 2024. They'll have to make a cost-cutting move and then try to convince the Ducks to retain part of Klingberg's salary. That could cost them their 2023 second-round pick.

Ottawa Senators

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    Ottawa Senators
    Ottawa SenatorsAP Photo/Charles Krupa

    After acquiring forwards Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux during the offseason, the rebuilding Ottawa Senators entered this season looking to contend for a playoff berth. However, their ongoing lack of skilled blue-line depth threatens to leave them outside the playoff picture for the sixth straight season.

    On Nov. 17, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported Senators general manager Pierre Dorion has been open about being "very, very active" in the trade market trying to obtain a top-four defenseman. Per Garrioch, TSN's Jay Onrait listed Klingberg among several blueliners available on the trade market.

    The Senators' defense corps is weakened by the absence of sidelined right-side blueliner Artem Zub. They're managing without him but could need help soon or risk falling behind in the playoff chase.

    Perhaps Klingberg would accept getting moved to a team like the Senators where he'd have a more talented roster to skate with. He could provide a veteran right-side presence, while his puck-moving skills would help their offense. They carry two second-round picks in the 2024 draft that might interest the Ducks.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Toronto Maple Leafs
    Toronto Maple LeafsMark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

    Despite the absence of sidelined blue-line regulars Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin, the Toronto Maple Leafs are riding high in the Eastern Conference standings. Young rearguards such as Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren and Conor Timmins have done well holding the fort.

    Nevertheless, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas could be open to adding a veteran rearguard before the trade deadline. With Muzzin (and his $5.6 million salary-cap hit) on long-term injury reserve indefinitely with a cervical spine injury, Dubas could use the savings to bring in someone like Klingberg.

    On Nov. 19, Sportsnet's Luke Fox included Klingberg among his proposed trade options for the Leafs. He noted the right-shot rearguard logged more time on ice per game (23:38) than any other pending UFA defenseman and can provide offense from the blue line. Klingberg has slipped to third in that category with 22:34 in ice time, but he can still play big minutes.

    The Leafs lack a second-round pick in the 2023 draft. They have two third-rounders, but theirs is a conditional pick with the Arizona Coyotes. They might part with their 2024 second-rounder or perhaps one of their lesser prospects.

    Stats (as of Dec. 14, 2022) via Salary info via CapFriendly. Line combinations via Daily Faceoff.