NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Rickard Rakell and the Ducks need a change

NHL Trade Deadline
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The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, April 12 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be moved by then. We continue today with Anahein Ducks forward Rickard Rakell.

The Anaheim Ducks are going in the wrong direction for the third year in a row, trending toward the bottom of the league standings lost in a seemingly directionless rebuild that isn’t even officially a rebuild. It is not pretty.

This is a team clearly in need of some significant changes, and it should start over the next couple of weeks with a trade involving one of the few tradeable assets on the roster that could bring them back a meaningful return — forward Rickard Rakell.

What makes Rakell such an attractive trade option (for both the Ducks and prospective teams around the league) is that he is still 27 years old, has an affordable term remaining on his contract (one more full season at $3.9 million against the salary cap), and the fact he is a talented, productive player. He helps in the short-term, and you get a full year of him next season as well.

So why would the Ducks want to move that? Simple: They need more help than he can provide on his own, and he is a player they can afford to dangle as trade bait. Obviously you’re not going to move one of the young prospects (Trevor Zegras or Jamies Drysdale), the rest of the roster doesn’t really offer much to other teams, and the only other attractive option is John Gibson. Gibson is the nuclear option for when you decide you need to give up, tear the whole thing down, and start over.

A change would also be great for Rakell individually.

[Related: ProHockeyTalk’s 2021 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker]

While he remains a productive player, his numbers have dropped across the board in recent years as the talent around him has deteriorated. He went from being a 35-goal player (per 82 games) in 2015-16 and 2016-17 to a 20-25 goal player (per 82 games) the past three years.

He is still talented, he is still a player that drives possession, and he still gets his shots on goal. All of the ingredients for goal-scoring are there. It is very similar to the situation Tyler Toffoli found himself in the past few years with the Los Angeles Kings. A skilled player with strong underlying numbers playing on a team and within a system that may have been holding him back offensively. Once he got to a new team, with better talent around him, and a better system to suit his skills the production erupted again.

This is not to suggest that Rakell is going to end up on a new team and contend for the goal-scoring crown next season, but the right fit could help him get back to that 30-goal level.

What the return might look like

The Ducks should get a really solid return here, mostly because this is not a rental situation.

A year ago at the deadline New Jersey got a prospect (2019 first-round pick Nolan Foote) and a first-round pick for Blake Coleman.

San Jose got a first-round pick for Barclay Goodrow.

Even the Ducks got a first-round pick and a prospect for Ondrej Kase and the willingness to take on David Backes‘ contract.

Minnesota got a first-round pick, an NHL roster player (Alex Galchenyuk), and a top prospect (Calen Addison) for Jason Zucker.

All of those players had term remaining on their contracts at the time of the trade, and Rakell is more productive and proven offensively than two of them (Goodrow and Kase).

There is no reason to think they can not get a first-round pick and a very solid prospect for Rakell right now. Given where the Ducks are this season and what the immediate future looks like, they should be happy with that.

The most logical landing spots: Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers

We are going with all of the usual suspects here, and looking at either contenders that have a need for additional offense (Boston, Edmonton, Islanders), or contenders that might be looking for a final piece of the puzzle to go all in (Toronto).

Also Philadelphia just because that seems like a team that is going to look to shake things up, but not in a rebuild way. A “we need better players to win right now” shake up.

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

Wild Card Team: Minnesota Wild

Why not the Wild? It is a better team than most people expected it to be, the salary cap space should be there this year, and it is a team that has extra draft picks to deal from. The Wild have nine picks in the 2021 class, including two first-rounders and two third-rounders (as a result of the Zucker trade).

The Wild also have some money coming off the books this offseason with Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino, Nick Bjugstad, and Ian Cole all being unrestricted free agents, so Rakell’s term next season should not be a cap issue.

Plus, Rakell just seems like he would be a pretty good fit and upgrade to a playoff team that is going to need as much help as it can get against a Colorado or Vegas in a potential playoff matchup. You have the assets and the resources. Why not take a chance?

Team I want to see just for fun: Florida Panthers

What a story they have been this season.

Not only are the Panthers on their way to the playoffs, but they are also in contention with Tampa Bay and Carolina for the top spot in the Central Division. Admit it, you did not see that happening at the start of the season.

They are also in a unique position where their two best players (Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau) are still signed long-term at WAY below market value contracts. That is a massive advantage that gives them more salary cap space than most other contenders. If you can get the okay from ownership to spend the money, make the move and try to strike while you can.

NHL Trade Deadline Prediction

I think the Panthers offer the perfect combination of need and salary cap space, while also being a team that is always adding players to its roster in somewhat bold moves.

The Florida Panthers are the pick here.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract Sunday, after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat on Monday. He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division on Saturday despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said Saturday after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena on Thursday.

    Bruins rolling, rest of NHL making final push for playoffs

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — Bruce Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights lost eight of 10 games going into the All-Star break after leading the Pacific Division at the midway point of the NHL season.

    They’re still safely in a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they can’t keep it up.

    “We’re still in a good position – that’s the way we look at it,” Cassidy said. “There’s not too many teams that can cruise home the last 30 games in this league, and we’re certainly not one of them.”

    Cassidy’s old team, the Boston Bruins, probably could. They’re atop the NHL and running away with the Atlantic Division.

    With 39 wins and 83 points through 51 games, Boston is on pace to break the record for the best regular season in NHL history. The Carolina Hurricanes, who beat Boston in seven games in the first round last year, are next in the standings at 76 points.

    “Top to bottom, there’s no weaknesses,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.

    The Bruins are in a class of their own, but the playoff races behind them in the East and West should be hot down the stretch with roughly 30 games to go before the chase for the Stanley Cup begins.

    METROPOLITAN DIVISION

    The Hurricanes rode a seven-game winning streak into the break, putting some fear into the Bruins in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage through the postseason. Winger Max Pacioretty re-tearing his right Achilles tendon five games into his return didn’t slow them down, and if their goaltending holds up, Carolina stands a good chance of reaching the East final.

    “This team, it’s a special group of guys,” said Brind’Amour, who captained Carolina to the Cup in 2006 and is in his fifth year as coach. “We kind of show that nightly. It’s just very consistent, and they take their job real serious. They do it right.”

    The second-place New Jersey Devils are contending for the first time since 2018. Bottoming out the next season helped them win the lottery for No. 1 pick Jack Hughes, a two-time All-Star who has them winning ahead of schedule.

    “Much better than being out of the mix,” Hughes said. “We’re really excited because it’s going to be a lot of important hockey, and it’s going to be really competitive and we’re really pumped to be where we are.”

    They’re followed by the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. All three New York-area teams could make it, which was the expectation for the Rangers after reaching the East final last year.

    “I think the run last year really taught us a few things and stuff that we obviously could build on for the rest of this year,” 2021 Norris-Trophy winning defenseman Adam Fox said.

    ATLANTIC

    The Rangers lost to the Lightning in six games last spring, when two-time champion Tampa Bay reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive season before getting beat by the Colorado Avalanche.

    The Lightning are almost certain to face the Toronto Maple Leafs – who haven’t won a playoff series since the NHL salary cap era began in 2005 – in the first round and remain a threat to the Bruins.

    But Boston has separated itself despite starting the season without top left winger Brad Marchand and No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins have lost only 12 games under new coach Jim Montgomery.

    “You just keep winning,” said All-Star right winger David Pastrnak, who’s tied for third in the league in scoring. “Every single line and every single guy is going and it obviously builds our confidence. It’s funny sometimes what confidence can do in hockey.”

    The Islanders should have some more confidence after acquiring 30-goal scorer Bo Horvat from Vancouver, but still need to make up ground to get in.

    CENTRAL

    Defending champion Colorado climbed in the standings – winning seven of eight going into the break despite an injury-riddled first half of the season. Captain Gabriel Landeskog still has not made his season debut since undergoing knee surgery. It would be foolish to bet against the Avs coming out of the West again.

    “It’s up to us: We control our own fate,” All-Star center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We need to definitely keep playing the way we were before the break. No matter who’s in the lineup we were playing well, playing hard, so it would definitely help with healthy bodies.”

    They still trail the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild in the Central, and the Nashville Predators are on their heels. Only the Stars and Jets are essentially guaranteed a spot.

    “Every point, you grind for it,” Stars leading scorer Jason Robertson said. “Every point’s going to be a dog fight, so it’s going to be a fun 30 games down the stretch.”

    PACIFIC

    Undisputed MVP favorite Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, who were swept by Colorado in the West final, have a little bit of catching up to do in the Pacific Division.

    The top spot is held by the Seattle Kraken, who surprisingly are on pace to make the playoffs in their second season but still need to fend off the Los Angeles Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights.

    Edmonton – and the Battle of Alberta rival Calgary Flames – have the talent to not only get in but make a run. McDavid leads the league with 41 goals and 92 points, 16 more than No. 2 scorer and teammate Leon Draisaitl, and is producing unlike anyone since Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux in the mid-1990s.

    Now he’ll try to carry the Oilers into the playoffs and beyond.

    “It hasn’t been easy at all for our group. We’ve kind of had to battle for everything that we’ve got,” McDavid said. “We’ve always been a second-half team for whatever reason. Even since my first year, we’ve always been better in the second half, so we’ll definitely look to continue that. That being said, we’re not going to hang our hat on that and expect that to carry us to the playoffs. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

    Capitals sign Sonny Milano to 3-year, $5.7 million extension

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    ARLINGTON, Va. — The Washington Capitals signed winger Sonny Milano to a three-year extension worth $5.7 million.

    General manager Brian MacLellan announced the contract, adding to an already busy All-Star break for taking care of future business. The Capitals extended forward Dylan Strome for five years, $25 million.

    Like Strome, Milano has fit in as a new addition for Washington. He’s now set to count $1.9 million against the salary cap through the 2025-26 season.

    The 26-year-old Milano has been a near-perfect bargain signing for the Capitals after joining them on an NHL veteran one-year deal after this season got underway. He has eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 40 games since getting called up from Hershey of the American Hockey League.

    Originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 16th in 2014, Milano split his first eight seasons in the league with them and the Anaheim Ducks. He went unsigned as an unrestricted free agent last summer despite putting up 34 points in 66 games with Anaheim.

    Rivals Crosby and Ovechkin relish being All-Star teammates

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have played dozens of regular-season and playoff games against each other since breaking into the NHL together in 2005.

    The longtime rivals and respective captains of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have also shared the ice at All-Star Games before. But with each superstar in his mid-30s, they know this trip could be their last together.

    They took advantage of it, with Ovechkin setting up Crosby for two goals Saturday in the lone game of the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament their Metropolitan Division team got to play.

    “I think we have fun to play together, not against each other,” Ovechkin said, flashing his gap-toothed smile. “Right now, we was on the same team, and it was pretty special, pretty good moment.”

    Crosby, who also had the secondary assist on Ovechkin’s goal, did not expect to get the puck back. That’s not unreasonable given Ovechkin has built a career on scoring and is only 82 goals back of Wayne Gretzky’s NHL career record.

    “I was thinking I just did my job: gave it to him,” said Crosby, whose career numbers are so close to Ovechkin’s that he has just five more points overall. “I thought he was just going finish it, but he was kind enough to send me a couple back. We had some nice goals there.”

    Not enough to win the 3-on-3 semifinal against the Atlantic, which beat the Central in the final. Ovechkin lamented not scoring more and took some jabs at his goalie teammates for a day: fellow Russians Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers and Ilya Sorokin of the Islanders.

    “Obviously goalie could play better,” Ovechkin said.

    Crosby and Ovechkin being together at All-Star weekend for the first time since 2018 was one of the themes of the weekend, given how they shared the stage as faces of the NHL for much of their careers. But they don’t want this to be a Sid and Ovi swan song and could do this again as soon as next year when the festivities are in Toronto.

    “You try to go out there have fun and stay in the moment,” Crosby said. “Hopefully, it’s not our last one. That’s the best way to approach it.”

    HOMETOWN HEROICS

    The introductions for Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk were saved for last.

    And of course, the two Florida Panthers stars, representing the Atlantic Division, delivered in their home arena.

    “We play regular-season and playoff games here, but with this event, it’s even more special to be here representing the Florida Panthers,” Barkov said.

    Tkachuk was clearly comfortable playing in the same arena where has amassed 66 points (sixth in the NHL) this season with the Panthers. He had seven points (four goals, three assists) Saturday, including a goal and an assist in the Atlantic Division’s 7-5 win over the Central Division to take the All-Star game title.

    Tkachuk had a hat trick and a pair of assists in the Atlantic squad’s semifinal game against the Metropolitan division – tying a single-game points record for the 3-on-3 All-Star format. Two of those goals were assisted by his Panthers teammate to give their squad a win 10-6 and advance to face the Central division the final.

    By the time Barkov and Tkachuk came out for the All-Star game final, “Let’s go Panthers!” cheers were being belted throughout FLA Live Arena.

    Barkov, the beloved Panther in his 10th season, has 14 goals this year and 33 assists. He has 234 career goals and 600 points.

    BROTHERLY LOVE

    Brothers Matthew Tkachuk and Brady Tkachuk have played against each other plenty over the years. But with both players starting for the Atlantic division, they got to experience playing together as the 11th set of brothers to be All-Star teammates.

    The brothers each had a goal in Saturday’s semifinal game between the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions. And Brady assisted on his brother’s goal in the final against the Central division.

    Matthew, drafted in 2016 by the Calgary Flames, is a two-time All-Star with 177 career goals and 448 points.

    Brady, the younger Tkachuk sibling, was drafted in 2018 by the Ottawa Senators and has 110 career goals and 243 points.

    Both were All-Stars back in 2020 in their hometown St. Louis. Brady represented the Atlantic division, while Matthew represented the Pacific squad.

    WEATHER WOES

    It was 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Celsius) outside FLA Live Arena when the All-Star 3 on-3 tournament started – more than 50 degrees warmer than 2024 host Toronto. That doesn’t mean this year’s event didn’t have a weather issue.

    The NHL All-Star Beach Festival – which had areas where fans could test their hockey skills, get a photo with the Stanley Cup and check out a Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit, among other things – couldn’t open on Saturday.

    Rain in the morning delayed the opening on Fort Lauderdale Beach, and then 40 mph (64 kilometers per hour) wind gusts later in the day forced the NHL into keeping it closed and calling off a watch party for the All-Star Game.

    It was open Thursday and Friday.