We’ll catch up if you missed the 6000 words and video of Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s complete coverage of the 2022 NHL trade deadline. Anaheim Ducks top-six winger Rickard Rakell is en route to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Zach Aston-Reese, Dominik Simon, prospect goalie Calle Clang and second-round pick are headed to Anaheim.
The deal came about in the final couple of hours before the deadline. Penguins GM Ron Hextall didn’t feel a deal would happen until he gained traction near the finish line.
Get Hextall’s reaction and full story: Pittsburgh Penguins trade deadline.
Early Monday morning, the Penguins acquired injured defenseman Nathan Beaulieu from Winnipeg, but that deal didn’t clear space financially. So, Aston-Reese and Simon had to go to make room for Rackell. The Penguins saved a grand total of about $12,000, according to PuckPedia.com.
“He’s going to be a while. It’s more of a depth acquisition for us. He plays a real hard game, physical, boxing out and things,” Hextall said. “So we felt like he was a good fit with our group, and the physical, rugged nature that he plays with is certainly what attracted us to him.”
In the short term, the Penguins’ lines most likely include Rakell on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust. That’s a pretty good line. Actually, that’s a very good line: Rakell-Malkin-Rust.
Rakell is a right-handed LW, which means he will be easily accessible for one-timers on the rush. Malkin with a sniper could be a dangerous thing.
If Malkin and Rakell decide to play laterally instead of straight ahead, Rakell would also be a solid addition beside Jeff Carter. Carter’s right-handed shot would be a perfect match for Rakell on his off-wing.
The Penguins’ top-nine is suddenly deep, significantly deeper than 24 hours ago. Combined with the recently improved play of Danton Heinen, Evan Rodrigues, and even Kasperi Kapanen, the Penguins could have the ingredients for the best four-line role in the Metro.
(Editor’s Note: We omitted injured Jason Zucker and Brock McGinn).
Analysis: Now the Penguins can roll four lines with the Carolina Hurricanes. In their three recent meetings, the Hurricanes were just a bit better than the Penguins. Carolina won two of three and a majority of the nine periods.
In acquiring Rakell, the Penguins sacrificed depth–they may need to rely on players such as Drew O’Connor, Radim Zohorna, or Anthony Angello on the fourth line.
Those aren’t bad options for a fourth-line winger.
New York Rangers:
The Rangers went big in the final hour. Tyler Motte from Vancouver is a nice but small add. He won’t bring much offense, but a little and some defensively responsible grit.
New York’s big add was Andrew Copp. Now, the analytics folks poo-pooed Copp as a stone-handed goal scorer who needs disproportionate chances. That’s a bad thing to analytics people (that’s why they never understood Dominik Simon, either).
I’ll take a player who creates chances by the bushel and finishes less over a player who doesn’t create as many. In the playoffs, it’s about momentum, grinding, and perseverance. Copp will add a bit more to the Rangers lines, which are statistically soft in the slot.
Frank Vatrano was a weekend addition. He could be a top-sixer if Copp is not.
Justin Braun is a…questionable addition. Braun, himself, is a solid add. However, he figures to play on the third pairing with Patrik Nemeth. That’s not good for the Rangers because it will put a pair of similar defensemen–neither are blazing fast or generally two-way defensemen.
I covered a few weeks of the Colorado Avalanche playoff run last year in Vegas and Denver. Vegas ate Nemeth’s lunch and took the thermos. I don’t know if that’s a good third pairing or a disaster waiting to happen (and, again, I like Braun).
However, one nagging question–if the Rangers were so good, why did they add four players at the deadline? Chemistry could be immediate, or it could be an issue. Vatrano had trouble keeping his spot in the lineup in Florida, so let’s not oversell him. Copp is the star of the additions.
Analysis: If it clicks, the Rangers-Penguins will be a titanic battle in Round One. The goalie battle will be epic (Tristan Jarry vs. Igor Shesterkin), and the Rangers’ enthusiasm will test the Penguins’ experience. Rakell offsets the Copp addition, so the Penguins are probably a bit better, but New York Rangers GM Chris Drury addressed his team’s needs without handing over a first-round pick. That was some good GM’ing.
Oh, Washington. The forgotten titans lumbering through the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture are lost in the shuffle of the dramatic Boston Bruins season and well behind the surging Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. If we’re being brutally honest, losing Daniel Sprong to Seattle for Marcus Johansson was both addition and addition by subtraction. MoJo needs to be back in the limelight and back in the playoff chase. He’s a money player.
“I think it’s a pretty well-rounded group,” GM Brian MacLellan said. “It gives us flexibility lineup-wise that you can move guys around. I think we can compete with anybody in our division.”
Get McClellan’s thoughts on his deadline performance and the Washington Capitals outlook.
But, we disagree. Johansson was a transformative pickup, however, his only other move was getting steady center Johan Larsson from Arizona. It’s a nice addition, but doesn’t move the needle.
Analysis: Washington’s top-six probably improved significantly with Johansson, but the player has not filled the net in several years. Johanson had six goals in 36 games with Minnesota last season. He had nine markers in 60 games two seasons ago with the Buffalo Sabres. The last time Johansson was a relevant top-six winger was in 2017-18 when the Capitals unseated the Penguins and won the Stanley Cup.
Johansson had 24 goals that season, but he’s not been anything close since. If he doesn’t recapture that form, Washington is in deep trouble.
The Capitals’ four-lines are still thin. In the bottom six, Conor Sheary, Connor McMichael, and Brett Leason aren’t equal to the Penguins, Rangers, or Hurricanes counterparts. If he can get healthy, T.J. Oshie will help tremendously, but Washington isn’t on par with the rest of the Metro.
Washington is short in goal and the bottom six. Unless Johansson reverts to form, they’re well short in the top-six, too.
Fortunately, only one move to analyze here. Max Domi.
That’s a stiff grab for a team already on top of the Metro. Like the Penguins, Carolina pulled a buzzer-beater trade for Domi in a three-way deal with the Florida Panthers. Domi has not filled the net with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He had nine goals last season and nine goals, 32 points this season.
Maybe Domi fits. Maybe his skill and talent shine through. Maybe it doesn’t, and he doesn’t mesh with the straight-ahead, full speed ahead, Carolina Hurricanes.
Nothing to lose here, everything to gain. Carolina didn’t give up much, either (Yegor Korshkov, a 2016 second-round pick who played in only one career NHL game and is currently (stuck) in the KHL.
Analysis: It’s an A grade only because the Hurricanes don’t have any glaring holes. They could gamble and not lose. I don’t know if Domi fits, but if he doesn’t, Martin Necas and Stephen Lorentz are just fine in the middle-six. Maybe rookie Seth Jarvis (10-12-22) gets bumped back to fourth-line duty, or maybe he sticks up in the lineup.
Carolina is still the class of the Metro until the Penguins knock them down a peg in the playoffs.
Metro Analysis: The Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes are now eye-to-eye. They are on equal footing, and hockey fans might be treated to the playoff series played at the greatest skating velocity since the Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning tangled in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final.
The Rangers are a good team that got better, but Shesterkin is their savior. After the deadline, we like the Penguins’ ability to roll four lines and wear down the Rangers in the greasy areas. We also think the Penguins can match Carolina in speed and depth.
For the Penguins, that’s a win. For the Rangers, it’s a big step forward. For Washington, it’s a tepid endorsement but not enough. And for Carolina, the NHL trade deadline was pure gravy.
Game on. The NHL trade deadline is over. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ final game is April 29.
Here we go.