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Reading Between the Lines of Hextall & Rakell; NHL Draft Rumors

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NHL trade chatter, Pittsburgh Penguins, Rickard Rakell

MONTREAL — Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall was not scheduled to speak following the NHL GMs meeting at a Montreal hotel on Wednesday, though it appears our Dave Molinari guided Hextall to a spot to chat with the media. Hextall is a straight shooter, though does not typically divulge much information.

He broke from the guarded persona somewhat on Wednesday when he admitted that the Penguins and Letang are close to a deal, and he was not as optimistic about a deal for Evgeni Malkin.

That much was abundantly clear.

“We’re certainly more comfortable doing it that way, but as we get closer to the date, we have to look at everything and try to make the pieces fit,” Hextall said.

Hanging in the balance of the Malkin negotiations and perhaps any attempts to land another second-line center is Rickard Rakell.

Hextall has several more holes to fill, even if he signs Malkin. He has an enormous hole in the middle of his lineup if he doesn’t sign Malkin. Following Hextall’s logic will come a decision. One in which he is running out of time to make without interference from vultures who indeed watched Rakell click with both Sidney Crosby’s straight-ahead speed with low zone play and Malkin’s creative play.

Rakell transitioned seamlessly with both. General managers usually like to pay for those types of players, especially if they can pop 50-60 points, including 20 goals.

So, if we pull on Hextall’s thread, will Hextall sign Rakell before next Wednesday, or does he wait?

The guess from here is that he has to wait not necessarily by choice but by necessity. Filling the 2C role will require a payday to someone if it’s not Malkin. Vincent Trocheck? Nazem Kadri is the Colorado Avalanche’s top priority after marching through Denver with a Stanley Cup, but he may test the market anyway.

Potentially “former” New York Rangers Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp are lesser options but will cost less, too.

Those are the four primary options should Hextall and agent J.P. Barry not find enough common ground for Malkin to continue in Pittsburgh.

Trocheck will likely cost well more than Strome. Copp will be the least expensive of the options, but Hextall won’t know the price tag until he gets to the register on July 13.

And because Hextall won’t know how much he must spend on fortifying the middle, he’ll not be able to know how much he can spend on the proper sidecar.

Hextall prefers to prioritize the center before Rakell, and it seems the only way to do that now is to lock down Malkin or quickly sign a UFA center and hope a rival GM isn’t waiting to pounce on a high-IQ, slippery goal scorer who showed greater skill when extricated from Anaheim.

Or, Hextall can sign Rakell and go to market with whatever is left.

NHL Draft Rumors

Take them for what they’re worth.

*Hockey writers can gossip like old hens under hair dryers. Loose lips and rumors filled the unofficial media bar on Wednesday. Rumors persist that Montreal has no intention of taking anyone but Shane Wright with the first overall pick, but have instead inflated others hoping to push New Jersey or Arizona into a trade for the top pick.

*J.T. Miller is a highly discussed NHL trade target. Vancouver selects 15th overall. The New York Rangers are the hottest rumor. It would make sense for the Rangers to add talent, as well as a significant upgrade over Strome.

*Chatter was persistent that we could see a wild first round. It seemed every contingent had their own NHL trade chatter. However, I’ve covered a lot of these events and it would not be the first time there were deafening rumors followed by absolutely nothing.

Update 8:50 p.m.: By pick 13, we’ve seen several trades, huge surprises and more are coming. Juraj Slavkovsky was selected first, disproving rumors that Montreal was inflating others to induce trade offers. Makes sense, eh? If they wanted Slavkosvsky, try to induce offers for Wright. Two for the price of one.

*Repeating Dave Molinar’s reporting from earlier this week, watch Hextall on Thursday night. He’s a draft-floor worker. If the Pittsburgh Penguins make any moves on Thursday, it will be Hextall working the draft floor and finding an opportunity. The Penguins don’t have the horses to to trade up in the NHL draft, but they could move down.

It makes sense.

However, getting Kris Letang on a bargain AAV in exchange for a seemingly impossible six-year term does open the Penguins’ salary cap math more than anyone thought. Does it count if I predicted four years and $36 million? I got the value, which feels like a win, especially as almost ALL of the reporting on the parameters of the deal was incorrect.

*NYI Hockey Now‘s Stefen Rosner reports the Flyers are shopping James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny, as well as Ivan Provorov.

*PHN has been told by other members of our network that the Columbus Blue Jackets are probably going to move the 12th overall pick tonight. Arizona has been mentioned. We cannot specifically connect Jeff Chychrun but it would make sense.

Remember, there’s lots of talk. It’s always a big leap to action.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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bdgr
bdgr
1 month ago

That guess definitely counts for something, Dan! I am still surprised it isn’t at least 5-year/$36Mil. But hey, let’s go PENS.

Bachinga
Bachinga
1 month ago

GMRH needs to speed read the room. Rakell will need to be prioritized before the deadline if Geno is not signed otherwise he has two top six slots to fill that will not come cheaply. Not that my hearing is all that good but I have heard that Rakell could return to the West Coast.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bachinga
Bob
Bob
1 month ago

Maybe the mistake was signing Rust first.

David
David
1 month ago

Sign Rakell NOW. Or you are liable to end up without both Rakell and Malkin.

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