To an extent, making a trade and burning a future asset in exchange for help now ended up carrying the day in Pittsburgh after all at the NHL trade deadline. The Penguins have acquired forward Rickard Rakell from the Anaheim Ducks.
Zach Aston-Reese, Dominik Simon, a prospect and 2022 second-round pick apparently the return to ANA from PIT on Rickard Rakell. Trade call not yet done so nothing official just yet.— Bobby Margarita (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 21, 2022
Rakell, 28, carries a $3.78 million salary cap hit, which is more than Aston-Reese and Simon combined, so there could be some salary retained by the Ducks. Final details of the trade, including the specifics on which prospect Pittsburgh is sending remain unknown, as the NHL processes and completes a bunch of trades that come in right before the 2:59:59pm deadline.
For the Pens, it might be a “best of all worlds” trade. The badly needed a forward who can put the puck in the net. Rakell is a two-time 30+ goal scorer in the NHL with 16 goals and 12 assists in 51 games this season.
Ironically enough, though, for a team that has been in dire need of someone to finish, Rakell hasn’t always been the sharpest in this area with typically a low shooting percentage over the past few seasons.
Rickard Rakell (to Pittsburgh) is a middle-six forward with no finishing ability to speak of. pic.twitter.com/0QJZQ31JtA— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 21, 2022
To add to the list of reasons this could also be a slow start, Rakell has missed the Ducks’ last three games with an injury.
However, one of Rakell’s strengths is his play off the rush, which combined with his goal-scoring resume makes one think he could be a fun player to try out with Evgeni Malkin and probably do what Kasperi Kapanen has been supposed to do.
Rakell @penguins— Meghan Chayka (@MeghanChayka) March 21, 2022
• Getting to Scoring Areas
• Offense off the Rush
• Shoot First Tendency
• Often in Good Puck Supporting Positions
25th in shots off the rush, all sit for forwards
Rakell isn’t going to add much defensively, and his stats have been pointing down since peaking from 2016-18, though perhaps due to some team effects.
Rickard Rakell, traded to PIT, is a middle six scorer who, uh, had trouble scoring in the two seasons before this one. Doesn't really create for himself; he's best used beside a playmaking centre who can hit him with high-danger passes... #LetsGoPens pic.twitter.com/pc68ZcrYEr— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) March 21, 2022
In return, the Pens give up two fringe players on their depth chart in Zach Aston-Reese and Dominik Simon, plus a second round pick. Aston-Reese will be missed on the PK, though has proven to be a replaceable aspect of that group. Speaking of replaceable, Simon has good advanced metrics but hasn’t had a huge role and his low stats make him a good candidate to go the other way and not lose too much.
In the end, the biggest loss will be this year’s second round pick, a pick that GM Ron Hextall probably did not want to move. However, with his team once again poised and looking like one of the top teams in the Metropolitan division and in the East, their biggest weakness was needing one more finisher and point-scoring winger.
Giving up a second round pick is well more than worth it to add a player like Rackell, even if he turns out being only a rental. He can do things that the Penguins need, and unlike other trades around the league, it did not cost an inordinate amount to add to the team. The Pens also will give up a yet unnamed “prospect”, but that doesn’t much change the calculus of this trade, because quite frankly they don’t have any prospects good enough to fret over losing at this point.
For the longest time, it looked like the Pens would opt to go with what they had on hand, but the last minute move strengthens the team and makes them better down the stretch. Hextall owed that to the team for as well as they have played this season.
Projected playoff lineup
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Evan Rodrigues - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Danton Heinen - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Chad Ruhwedel
Reserves: Brian Boyle, Mark Friedman, Nathan Beaulieu, Radim Zohorna
There is still some room to sort lines accordingly, but if healthy Pittsburgh’s top-nine and even top-12 forwards looks really good right now. They will need players like Zucker, Rakell and Kapanen to come through down the stretch, but those are also players in good situations right now to do so.
For the reported Pittsburgh/Anaheim trade sending Rickard Rakell to the Pens
This poll is closed
Love it, great add by the Pens, thrilling move!
Pretty good trade, fairly excited
Completely neutral about it as of right now
Don’t like it, gave up too much and/or Rakell isn’t the guy to get
UPDATE: Trade is announced and confirm, the previously unknown prospect involved in the deal is 2020 third round pick, Swedish goalie Calle Clang. The Ducks will retain 35% of Rakell’s salary this season, which essentially evens up the transaction financially with the Simon and Aston-Reese contracts going to Anaheim as well.