The Penguins and Anaheim Ducks have had a wonderful working relationship and have made several trades in recent years. Most recently the Ducks picked up Erik Gudbranson and his $4.0 million cap hit from Pittsburgh for a seventh round pick in October of 2019. The teams made a fairly minor move to swap veteran forwards Derek Grant and Joseph Blandisi earlier in 2019 and in late 2018 the teams made a “change of scenery” deal that sent Daniel Sprong west for Marcus Pettersson.
Jim Rutherford is gone, and he made all of those deals on the Pens’ end, but Anaheim is at the top of the lists right now for trade rumor activity. The Ducks are winless in their last six games and have the worst points percentage in their division. It’s looking like another lost season for Anaheim, which means changes are going to be coming sooner than later.
David Pagnotta from The Fourth Period had more on the Ducks yesterday:
Heinen joins forwards Adam Henrique, Jacob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell as pieces the Ducks are willing to take trade calls on. All four players are having less than impressive statistical seasons, and Henrique, who cleared waivers last week and scored last night in his first game back in the lineup, and Silfverberg are locked up for three more seasons. Rakell has one-year remaining on his deal.
Rakell, who signed a six-year, $22.8 million deal in Oct. 2016, might be the most attractive asset up for grabs, even though he’s having for the worst offensive season of his pro career.
He is coming off back-to-back 40+ point seasons (in less than 70 games) and had two 30+ goal seasons before that. At just 27, a change of scenery might reignite Rakell’s offensive game that has almost disappeared in Anaheim with the rest of his teammates. And his cap hit, a shade under $3.8 million, makes him an appealing reclamation project for a team in need of a second-line boost.
There looks like two separate but meaningful items to take out of this report.
The first is the trade rumors around Danton Heinen, whom the Ducks reportedly are very interested in swapping out to bring in different NHL talent to change up the mix. This might be in the form of a Jake Virtanen deal with Vancouver, according to other various trade news.
The Pens don’t have a lot to offer as far as a quality bottom-six NHL player to exchange for Heinen, but as a player fit that would be a pretty good start if Pittsburgh could make a line of Heinen and Jared McCann and find a third wheel to go along with their Buzzsaw line and their scoring top six.
The second item would center around winger Rickard Rakell. Rakell has long been a Penguin fan interest/dream target for a while. Depending on the actual prognosis of Jason Zucker, Rakell might be of extreme interest now to the Pens in their win now mode if it is known but not shared that Zucker will be out for a very extended period of time.
Playing through the slog of a bad Anaheim team has dragged Rakell down, especially in 2019-20, but he also has a lot of finishing ability to score goals.
The main question would morph into what do the Penguins have that the Ducks would want? And how would each side be able to negotiate their salary structure situations in order to make the cap details work. Both are important issues to navigate.
The other problem is that the Penguins are not going to be alone in having interest in a prime aged player who has twice been a 30 goal scorer. Pittsburgh doesn’t have a lot of future assets in terms of young players or draft picks to offer, and most of what they have at the NHL level, they need to keep and find a way to add.
Rakell would certainly represent a massive swing for the fences and a bold attempt to add a lot to the lineup. It also feels unlikely to actually pull off. If you’re the Ducks, who do you want for Rickard Rakell? If I’m giving up a 27-year old former 30 goal scoring winger who makes $3.8 million, why wouldn’t you ask for a 28-year old goal scoring winger who makes $3.5 million? That would be Bryan Rust. That would also likely be a conversation-ender for the Penguins, but about the only natural starting point considering what Anaheim is trying to accomplish to boost their NHL scoring.
The Pens are also becoming flush with defensemen, does it make sense to consider moving a player with a salary like Marcus Pettersson in light of the emergence of P.O Joseph? Perhaps, but Pittsburgh has also dealt with a ton of defensive injuries, and probably aren’t going to be so quick as to trade a solid option away — and even before they regain health in that position would not seem very wise. With as much time as Brian Dumoulin has missed in the past two seasons, it suddenly makes keeping more LHD as not just a safe idea, but almost a necessity.
Still, a trade of Pettersson if necessary probably can’t be ruled out if the Pens actually want to make a trade. There aren’t a lot of NHL teams at the moment who are probably all that interested in making major deals at this point of the season. A lot of the rumor talk and whispers are that Anaheim is among the few of the places that actually are interested in a shakeup of their team and would be willing to make trades.
Unfortunately for the Pens, based on not many appealing available assets, limited cap space and a lack of what Anaheim is looking for (NHL caliber forward exchanges) it doesn’t appear that Pittsburgh and the Ducks are the easiest of trading fits right now. However, if Anaheim shifts more to “seller” than “trying to salvage this season”, that could change the situation.
The Penguins on the ice look like they could use a boost, especially with Zucker’s speed gone. Could that come in the form of a trade with Anaheim? Ron Hextall isn’t Jim Rutherford in terms of frequency of making moves, but Hextall is in the GM seat and will have to be putting his stamp on the team fairly soon in order to help the team make a playoff push.
It’s going to be another interesting few weeks ahead to see if we see another Pittsburgh/Anaheim deal consummated.