The State of the Pittsburgh Penguins Following the Trade Deadline

Graphic courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins Twitter


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The NHL trade chatter for Pittsburgh was radio silent from the time the trades started heating up a few weeks ago right up until the 3 P.M. deadline on Monday. It seemed the Penguins were primed to march on with the group they had with no outside forces making their way in.

Instead, Ron Hextall pulled the rug out from underneath everyone and pulled off a deal right up against the deadline.

The Penguins hauled in Rickard Rakell from the Anaheim Ducks, a 28-year old winger with 16 goals and 28 points on the season, for a package of Zach Aston-Reese, Dominik Simon, goaltending prospect Calle Clang, and a second-round draft pick.

On the surface, giving up four assets to acquire one player might sound like a lot. However, the assets pale in comparison to what the Penguins are going to gain by adding Rakell into their lineup.  Simon and Aston-Reese have combined for five goals on the season. Rakell himself has tripled that number playing with line mates that won’t match the quality of Evgeni Malkin. That’s a massive win, in and of itself.

There is some loss there in the penalty kill department for the Penguins, but as long as Teddy Blueger remains healthy, it shouldn't be too much of a step back.

Rakell’s 16 goals are a welcomed addition to a lineup that has seen its depth scoring go dry in recent weeks. That figure will rank fifth on the team behind only Jake Guentzel (29), Sidney Crosby (22), Bryan Rust (20), and Evan Rodrigues (17).

Take a peek, too, at what the Penguins lineup combinations could look like, assuming everyone gets healthy at some point:

Guentzel-Crosby-Rust

Zucker-Malkin-Rakell

Heinen-Carter-Kapanen

McGinn-Blueger-Rodrigues

That’s a solid four lines to roll out on any given night. Factor in Brian Boyle as the 13th forward and you’ve got some nice depth going forward.

The other Eastern Conference teams made moves to get better as well. The Lightning acquired Brandon Hagel. Florida picked up Ben Chiarot and Claude Giroux. Also, Carolina added Max Domi in a late deal. The Rangers, too, beefed up with Andrew Copp and Tyler Motte.

There were many moves made throughout the league with so many sellers and good players available. That’s not to mention anything that happened out West.

The subtraction of Aston-Reese and Simon won’t be much of a loss for Pittsburgh. Aston-Reese never quite reached his potential here and Mike Sullivan inexplicably kept pushing Simon into the lineup and into more prominent situations than he deserved to be in.

With five goals between them, the Penguins will now be able to roll with four scarier lines when healthy. Simon and ZAR will get every opportunity in Anaheim to play as well.

Boyle will see less ice time than he typically would have in recent weeks but that’s okay. He’s 36-years old. He’s been very good for the role the Penguins have asked him to play but he’s a guy that is better served plugging and playing when needed. He’ll suit up for the next handful of games as the Penguins await Zucker and McGinn’s return from injury.

You can’t help but think of the 2015-16’ and 2016-17’ Stanley Cup winning teams as far as depth goes with this current lineup.

Clearly, Hextall showed a ton of faith in his defensive core. He locked up Mark Friedman to a two-year contract extension and made no impactful moves to mess with his current top-six.

Hextall did trade for blue liner Nathan Beaulieu early this morning who is a depth piece the Penguins hopefully will never have to use.

Hextall did the right thing and showed faith in his roster by adding to it while not subtracting any impact pieces from his roster. The Penguins are a much better team with Rakell than they were prior to Monday’s deadline.


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