Pittsburgh Penguins’ Trade Deadline Target: Rickard Rakell

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

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The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching. On March 21st at 3 P.M., NHL rosters will be set for the remainder of the season as teams march forward towards the playoffs.

With the Pittsburgh Penguins in prime position to make the postseason for a 16th consecutive time, they’ll certainly be scouring the market for solid deals.  Pens’ GM Ron Hextall could decide to make a splash similar to last season, for someone like Jeff Carter, or he could find some depth and build the team around the edges.

The Penguins could also look for a backup goaltender to replace a struggling Casey DeSmith. They could look for another Ron Hainsey type of depth defenseman to bolster their backend. Heck, they could even make a massive deal for a guy like Brock Boeser, the Vancouver Canucks young scoring forward.

To acquire anything, the Penguins may have to part with young prospects or draft picks. However, with a lack of depth already in the system, the organization can’t afford to continue trading those pieces away.  Current players like Jason Zucker and Kasperi Kapanen are guys who haven’t played to their expected contracts and may entice a team looking for a change-of-scenery, type player.

Over the next few weeks leading up to the deadline, I’ll be looking into some players who the Penguins are reportedly linked too as well as some guys I think could fit their team.

In this piece, we’ll focus on Anaheim Ducks’ forward Rickard Rakell.

Rickard Rakell

The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta reported Tuesday that the Penguins have preliminary interest in Rakell’s services ahead of the NHL’s trade deadline.  Rakell will turn 29 years old in May and currently has a fairly team friendly $3.8 million contract that expires this offseason. As a rental, Rakell may not cost as much as a longer term piece the Penguins would be interested in acquiring.

Over the last few seasons, Rakell hasn’t quite found the game he had earlier in his career. He had 33 and 34 goal seasons consecutively between 2016-17’ and 2017-18’. His highest total since is 18 goals in 2018-19’.

Rakell has done a fairly good job of staying healthy throughout his career as well. Since becoming a full-time NHL player, Rakell has never played less than 52 games in a season. Assuming he doesn’t get injured, Rakell will certainly crest the 52-game mark again this season.

Interestingly enough, Rakell has been mentioned in past trade deadlines as a target for the Penguins as well. The Penguins likely looked into acquiring his services last season before the conversation shifted to Nicolas Deslauriers.  The Penguins reportedly acquired Deskauriers, according to Elliotte Friedman, before the deal fell through for unknown reasons.

Rakell feels like a player that could mesh well with Evgeni Malkin and, if needed, Sidney Crosby. The potential to score is obviously there after two 30 goal seasons. Players don’t just luck into those.

His line mates would certainly be better in Pittsburgh than in Anaheim. Currently, he plays with Max Comtois and Isac Lundestrom. A chance to play with Crosby and Co. would certainly be enticing to him.

With 334 points in 541 games, the forward could be a nice replacement if Bryan Rust isn’t re-signed this offseason. Of course, Rakell also would need a renewed contract but his won’t be in the neighborhood of what Rust will be looking for.

Time will tell what the Penguins’ brass have planned. I believe Rakell has been of interest to the Penguins in the past. He should be on the list again this season if he can be had at an affordable price.

With the Ducks near a playoff spot in the West, maybe a solid hockey trade could be made with Anaheim for someone like Kapanen who makes nearly an identical salary and is also a change-of-scenery candidate.

Rakell intrigues me as a guy the Penguins should be at least checking in on as we close in on the deadline.