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Trade Deadline Grades & Metro Reaction: Do the Penguins Stack Up?

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Carolina Hurricanes

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.

Guentzel-Crosby-Rodrigues

Rakell-Malkin-Rust

Heinen-Carter-Kapanen

Boyle-Blueger-O’Connor?

Grade: A+

(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.

Grade: A

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.

Washington Capitals:

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.

Grade: B-

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.

Carolina Hurricanes

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.

Grade: A?

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.

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Jason.C
Jason.C
1 month ago

Lines should be as follows when everyone is healthy
Guentzel-Crosby-Rust
Rakell-Malkin-Kapanen
Heinen-Carter-Zucker
Boyle-Blueger-McGinn
Rodriguez xtra substituted for Boyle or Heinen

Defense
Mathesson-Letang
Dumoulin-Marino
Beaulieu-Friedman xtra Petterson sub for Friedman

Thats a pretty deep lineup! I know Beaulieu won’t be able to play until close to playoff time but he has that physical element he can bring to the game and he is a faster skater.

Last edited 1 month ago by JcNorthStar
Katz
Katz
1 month ago

Penguins have gone from a likely First Round exit to a competitive with anyone in the First Round and if health can hold a team that can make a little noise. They are not a team that can beat Colorado , Tampa, or Florida . But they are a team that has a real chance to get past the First Round and possibly the 2nd. And that’s a Fighter’s chance. This trade is excellent reward for little cost and makes the team significantly better. A real find for a patient GM who snatched a bargain at the last second.

Chuck E Fromage
Chuck E Fromage
1 month ago
Reply to  Katz

It’s bizarre how so many people act like upsets never happen in the playoffs, even though I don’t think it would be much of an upset if the Pens beat either of the Florida teams. Every year people like yourself post statements about how the regular season standings are just going to be replicated in the playoffs and that there’s no way that a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th place team is going to beat this year’s number 1, but it happens all the time and is even more likely historically than the 1 seed winning. The years that the Penguins… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Chuck E Fromage
Katz
Katz
1 month ago

Pessimistic? I was realistic for two years , and prior to this trade I was saying another 1st Rnd exit. The 4th in a row I’ve been screaming they were built for the regular season only. Last year they won the Division and going into the First Round I said they would lose again to the Islanders. Unfortunately I was right. Now for the First time in a long time I’m optimistic. The changes seem very minor but they are huge . It says they finally recognized in spite of analytics players like Simon and ZAR were a dime a… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Katz
Chuck E Fromage
Chuck E Fromage
1 month ago
Reply to  Katz

I’m not overly optimistic, and nothing in my post would lead anyone to believe that. My issue is with the absurd statements that I read every year that “there’s no way that team X will beat team Y” and then like clockwork a team like Montreal last season, just an example, makes it all the way to the finals. Your analysis is fine and I’m not interested in debating any of it, but I don’t like the “this team can’t beat these elite teams” type statements because it’s simply not true. It happens every year in the NHL playoffs. Nobody… Read more »

moe
moe
1 month ago

The regular season is over April 29.
Cup season is totally different, and the Pens finally after 3 years are a legit Cup pursuing team. Gone are the Islanders to reduce them to ashes. Rangers and Carolina both are very good teams, and Pens are better with the Letang, Crosby, Malkin trio and three Cups in the modern era.

Marc Badger
Marc Badger
1 month ago

Love this metro analysis! Not going to lie, I was refreshing websites like a psycho for that last hour of deadline day. Ecstatic when they murmurs were coming out minutes before 3pm. And if you’re going to disrupt a line, it makes most sense to adjust the 4th. Great move by Hextall who still has our injured Pens available to further deepen the lineup. A Dom Simon question for everyone! Is Simon a top 3 player on the walls for the Pens? He’s out there pick pocketing players and yo-yoing the puck to his stick blade. Okay, maybe an exaggeration;… Read more »

Ethan
Ethan
1 month ago

I get that most eyes will be glued to the 2nd line tonight (assuming Rakell plays). Yet I suspect I’ll be keeping a slightly nervy watch on the 4th line and penalty kill though to see what effects might result from two players disappearing from the bottom of lineup (and no McGinn) and their replacements/callups. Stay out of the box should always be the mantra–but especially for the next few games!

Logan
Logan
1 month ago

Great work as always Dan. I appreciate all your hard work.

Rick
Rick
1 month ago

Are the Pens a better team today than they were at this time yesterday? Absolutely! But just simply removing Simon an ZAR from Sullivan’s tool box made the team better, Rakell was icing on the cake. Everyone, including management, coaching, pundits, and fans have been whining about a lack of secondary scoring; Simon and ZAR have combined for just 4 5-o,-5 goals all season. As for team Goals, Simon checks in at 17th among all Penguins for Team Goals 5-on-5 while he is on the ice and ZAR, 23rd. You mention that trading Sprong was addition by subtraction, so was… Read more »

RYAN
RYAN
1 month ago

I think the canes and Rangers are highly overrated.

But that’s why they play the games…we shall see

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