The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be on the move. We continue today with Anaheim Ducks forward Rickard Rakell.
The Anaheim Ducks are going to be a fascinating team to watch over the next couple of weeks. They have been better than expected this season and managed to hang around in the Stanley Cup Playoff race a lot longer than anybody really expected.
As of Monday they are one point out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but have a larger deficit to overcome based on points percentage due to the number of games they have already played. In other words, they are right on the bubble. Not out of it, but not exactly a strong position to be in. They are far from a guarantee to make the playoffs.
The task at hand for new general manager Pat Verbeek is weighing his chances of re-signing each player, whether or not he thinks his team has a realistic chance to make the playoffs this season, and whether or not those two variables would make it worthwhile for him to sell over the next couple of weeks.
Today we are going to focus on Rakell, a winger that could fit in as a good middle-six scoring option for a contender with a fairly affordable salary cap number for the rest of the season.
It was only a few years ago that Rakell was a 30-35 goal scorer for the Ducks and an overlooked top-liner, but his production has dipped a bit ever since. He still has solid underlying numbers and his goal scoring has bounced back a little this season (currently on a 27-goal pace over 82 games), and he could be an intriguing option for a team that needs a secondary scoring option for the playoffs.
What the return might look like
This is probably not first-round pick territory. Rakell’s offensive production is pretty similar to what Tyler Toffoli was doing for the Montreal Canadiens so far this season and he brought back a first-round pick, another pick, and a prospect. The difference being Toffoli’s recent track prior to this season has been more a little productive, while Toffoli is still signed for two more full seasons beyond this year. Rakell had a down 2020-21 season and is a pending unrestricted free agent after this season. He very likely could be a pure rental. But while the price may not be a first-round pick, this does seem like a situation where the Ducks could get a pair of second-round picks, or perhaps a second-round pick and a solid prospect. If the Ducks had traded him a year ago they might have been able to get a little more.
The most logical landing spots
• New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins
It is probably a broken record in these things, but the Rangers. Need. More. Offense. “Our goalie is better than your goalie” will only take you so far, and if you are going to seriously contend and compete for a Stanley Cup you need more than two lines that can score. Any available forward should be an option for the Rangers, especially given their salary cap situation.
Pittsburgh is an intriguing option because they should absolutely be in the market for another middle-six winger and they do not have a ton of trade capital to deal from or a lot of salary cap space to work with. If the Ducks retain some salary, or if they can move out another contract at some point.
The Bruins have needed scoring depth for most of the season but they are starting to get a little more production in that regard over the past few weeks, but definitely a team to maybe watch here.
Wild Card team: Minnesota Wild
The Wild are in a tough spot. They are a definite playoff team, and at times this season they have looked like a legitimate contender. But they have hit hit a run here over the past month and are going to be facing a pretty brutal road through the playoffs. They could definitely beat St. Louis in a first-round matchup, but that could leave them with a second-round matchup against Colorado looming. They will need all the help they can get in that. Either way, this is a team that looks like it needs a boost. Rakell could be a solid pickup for a decent price to help give them a little more potential offense.
Spot I want to see just for fun: Los Angeles Kings
The Kings and Ducks started the season in similar spots, rebuilding teams with low expectations that were not expected to be playoff teams. Both of them exceeded those expectations to a point, but the Kings seem to be in a slightly better playoff spot now and could be in the market to add. Getting a cross-town and divisional rival’s player to help that playoff push would be a twist nobody expected to see happen this season.
NHL Trade Deadline prediction
The Ducks know they are probably not going to be a playoff team this season and decide to sell. The Pittsburgh Penguins need a middle-six winger upgrade and do not have a ton of assets or salary cap flexibility to work with. Rakell could be a realistic option with what they have to work with, especially if the Ducks retain some salary.