Manson doesn’t get the fanfare of the flashy offensive Ducks blueliners but is quietly one of the game’s top defensive D-men, making his new contract a big win for Anaheim.
The Anaheim Ducks and GM Bob Murray must be tickled pink today. They just locked up Josh Manson on a four-year, $16.4-million extension, and it’s a massive bargain. He’s not the flashiest defenseman in the NHL, but he’s emerged as one of the game’s premier shutdown blueliners. He’s even more impressive if you peak under the hood at his underlying defensive metrics.
The Ducks sent a pretty clear message about how much they valued Manson over the summer when, after not protecting him in the expansion draft, they worked out a side deal to send prized prospect blueliner Shea Theodore to the Vegas Golden Knights rather than lose Manson or Sami Vatanen. Theodore was a 2013 first-rounder and has a high offensive ceiling. He might already be the Golden Knights’ best defenseman and power play quarterback, assuming sending him down to the AHL this week was merely a paper move. But his puck-moving skill made him a bit redundant on a blueline already possessing Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Vatanen and Brandon Montour, with 2015 first-rounder Jacob Larsson also on the roster fringe. The Ducks knew Manson brought a skill set no one else on the team had: enough mobility to fit the modern definition of NHL-caliber defenseman but with top-notch grit and shot-suppression skills.
The layman fan can understand easily what Manson, 25, brings to the table. He’s 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. He’s a coveted right-handed shooter. He loves to lay the body like his father Dave did. Josh’s 227 hits led all Ducks blueliners and placed him seventh among all NHL defensemen last season. He logged 2:20 of shorthanded ice time per game, too, contributing massively to the league’s fourth-ranked penalty kill.
The advanced statistics shine additional favorable light on Manson. Per corsica.hockey, Manson had the sixth-best Corsi Against per 60 among the 133 defensemen who played 1,000 or more minutes last season. That means he had the sixth-best impact in terms of preventing the other team from attempting shots when he was on the ice. His 5-on-5 relative Corsi For was 6.09 percent higher than his teammates’ average, giving him the third-highest margin in the NHL among that group of 133 blueliners. Manson’s ice time, which hovered around 18 minutes per game last season, suggested he may have been sheltered, but his quality of offensive competition (his opponents’ 5-on-5 Corsi For per 60) ranked a respectable 50th among the 133 D-men with 1,000 minutes.
It’s natural to assume regular partner Hampus Lindholm, one of the NHL’s best defensemen, inflates Manson’s Corsi numbers. But according to naturalstattrick.com, Lindholm’s 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage last season in 306:15 away from Manson was 50.99 versus 55.05 in 718:07 with Manson. Manson slipped to 48.29 without Lindholm, so Lindholm elevated Manson more than he elevated Lindholm, but they clearly both augmented each other as a tandem.
To get Manson at a $4.1-million AAV is a coup. That cap hit will be the 71st-highest among blueliners signed for 2018-19, and it will rank even lower in the group once the 2018 UFAs sign. Having Manson under team control through 2021-22 at such a reasonable number will help the Ducks navigate tricky future cap waters, too. Montour and Nick Ritchie are RFAs this summer. They seem more likely to land in bridge-deal territory, but starting goalie John Gibson is an RFA in summer 2019 and should command a fat long-term contract extension by then. Jakob Silfverberg is a UFA in 2019. So having Manson, Fowler, Vatanen and Lindholm inked on the blueline for the foreseeable future puts the Ducks in a nice spot, with Manson bringing the most sandpaper and smothering defensive ability in that quartet.