Three Possible Trade Destinations for Matt Niskanen

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It’s no secret that Matt Niskanen is on the trade block this offseason. The Caps desperately need salary cap space, and Niskanen makes nearly $6 million per year. With Nick Jensen, a similar right-handed defensemen, signed for the next four years and a number of prospects looking to break into the fold, it looks like Niskanen’s time in a Caps jersey might be over. After a poor season, the 32-year-old defenseman is a prime candidate to be moved to make room for contracts for younger players.

For what it’s worth, I’m not entirely sure trading Niskanen is as perfect of a solution as many fans seem to think it is. For one, he’s been fantastic for the Caps since they signed him up until this year. I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt for having a bad year and expect him to be back closer to form next year.

Moreover, the reasons the Caps would trade him — that he’s 32, makes too much money, and had a bad year — also make him unattractive to potential trade partners, meaning the return will be minimal.

With that being said, it’s still a strong possibility, so here are three possible destinations for Niskanen in the trade market.

Dallas Stars

The Stars are a perfect destination for Niskanen. First, they enter the offseason with over $20 million in available cap space, according to CapFriendly.com (using projected figures for next year’s cap). They have a few pending free agents they’d surely like to bring back, but probably enough space still to afford Niskanen’s contract.

With three promising young left-handed defensemen in Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, and Julius Honka, the Stars could use a veteran righty to stabilize their corps, which is exactly what Niskanen brings. He would slot in perfectly on the second pairing with Heiskanen, who is quickly developing into one of the best young defensemen in the league at only 19 years old.

Niskanen also was drafted by and started his career with the Stars, which would ease his transition to Dallas.

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks’ defensive corps this year was bad. Like, really bad. They played a whopping 15 defensemen in at least five games this year, and only one of them cracked the 50% mark in Corsi for percentage (a measure of puck possession).

Thankfully for Ducks fans, they return only one of this year’s right-handed defensemen and only four of the 15 they rostered in total. But that means they’ll have to find some defensemen somewhere else. They could really use someone like Niskanen — who has been above 50% CF% in all but two of his NHL seasons — to provide a stabilizing force.

Cap space, however, would be an issue. The Ducks would need at least two more defensemen beyond Niskanen and a backup goalie with Ryan Miller’s contract expiring and they’d have to do it all with roughly $10 million, assuming nobody under contract leaves and no more moves are made to upgrade their forwards. Still, if cap considerations can be ironed out, this would be a logical destination.

Vancouver Canucks

Similar to the Stars, the Canucks have talented young left-handed defensemen and could be looking to pair them with veteran righties. They have three righties under contract next year in Chris Tanev, Troy Stecher, and Alex Biega, but adding Niskanen would immediately improve their back end. Much like with Heiskanen in Dallas, Niskanen would fit perfectly on a second pair with Quinn Hughes, a supremely talented but turnover-prone young defenseman who needs a defensive-minded pair.

Vancouver has tons of cap space to work with for next season, but they also have a lot to do, including a (hopefully) long term deal for Brock Boeser. But for a team with a promising group of forward prospects, a veteran defenseman could jump them into real playoff contention.

-Tiger Bjornlund

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